- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Mike Green’s lucky scissors, it may be of interest to him.

After setting an NHL record for most consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman, Green has scored just one time in the past 13 contests for the Washington Capitals. He jokingly asserted Friday that his favorite cutting instrument going AWOL could be part of the problem.

“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I’ve been getting the opportunities, but sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t.”

Kidding aside, Green’s name has been conspicuously missing from the score sheet of late. Since scoring in an eighth straight contest Feb. 14 against Tampa Bay, Green has one goal and seven assists.

While he still leads all NHL defensemen with 23 goals and 58 points - and has done so despite missing 13 games with a shoulder injury - this stretch is Green’s least productive of the season.

“It’s not like he’s not getting the chances,” defenseman Shaone Morrisonn said. “As a group, we haven’t been scoring many goals lately. I think it is going to come. We just have to keep working within the system, and the goals are going to come. He’s been playing very well defensively, and that’s his No. 1 job.”

Another reason for his lack of offensive production could be his battle to stay healthy. Green has been sick a couple of times during the second half of the season. A simple cold can hinder him because he logs upward of 25 minutes of ice time a night.

“Sometimes you don’t even realize it until you get out on the ice and you physically have no strength,” Green said. “Then you can kind of tell you’re getting sick - you’re sweating more than usual and your legs won’t go, but you’ve got to battle through it and find a way to play.”

Green’s defensive duties have increased this season. He ranks seventh in the NHL in ice time (nearly 26 minutes a game) and has spent much more time killing penalties. Last season, Green was on the ice in man-down situations for a total of 28:36 - about 20 seconds a game. This year, he averages 2:25 a game on the PK as a regular in the team’s four-defensemen rotation.

He is also facing superior offensive players at even strength. In the past two games, Green was on the ice in five-on-five situations more than any other Caps defenseman against offensive standouts Jeff Carter and Mike Richards of Philadelphia and Nashville’s Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont.

Those four combined for one point - an assist by Richards when Green wasn’t on the ice. Coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out that the home team has the last change before faceoffs, but last year he may have tried harder to keep Green from having to play defense against other teams’ top scorers.

“Mike is better than he was last year, and he wants more responsibility than he had last year,” Boudreau said. “When great players want more responsibility, you give it to them.”

Added Green: “I like playing against the top guys. It is a challenge to play against those guys. I don’t mind it at all.”

Green has 13 games left to accomplish two individual milestones. One is becoming the first NHL defenseman in 16 years to score 30 goals. The other is to be named a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman.

While Green led the NHL in goals by a defenseman last season, he didn’t receive much media attention. That has changed dramatically this year; Green gracing the cover of the most recent issue of the Hockey News is evidence of his place among the sport’s elite.

Dealing with the interest - the extra time needed for an interview here or an appearance there - is a big part of Green’s growth this season.

“We talk about Mike Green just being Mike Green,” Boudreau said. “It is his breakout year as far as attention goes. He got a little bit at the end of the year last year, but nothing like he’s getting now. Maybe at the beginning it was a little tougher to handle, but I think he’s really maturing and coming into his own and handling it so well.”

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