- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2011

The end of a long road might be in sight for Mike Green. Injured Nov. 11, the Washington Capitals’ defenseman could be back as early as next week.

Green (groin) skated for the third straight day with teammates, and he was optimistic about possibly playing sooner rather than later.

“I’m feeling better each time, and I’m starting to get my lungs back. I think we want to play this safe. Obviously, I’ve been out for a long time and want to get back, but I want to make sure I’m ready to play,” Green said Thursday. “I’m hoping next week. I mean, I’ll skate tomorrow again, see how I feel. You never know. Maybe I could play. But it looks like next week.”

Coach Dale Hunter deferred to trainer Greg Smith, but general manager George McPhee pointed toward “later next week” for Green’s return.

“He’s feeling really good. He’s about 80 percent right now,” McPhee said in an interview on 106.7 The Fan. “We have to be careful about bringing him back at the right time. We can’t have a setback, and we cant have something that bothers him all year. We have to make this thing go away.”

Green has mentioned that he will probably need to be cognizant of groin problems the rest of his career. It’s the kind of injury that can linger, as evidenced by defenseman Tom Poti’s status on long-term injured reserve.

Naturally, Hunter would love to see Green as part of his system.

“He’s a great player, and he’s going to add offense to our team. Power play, he’ll help the power play also. He can play a lot of minutes,” Hunter said. “Definitely any coach would be pretty excited to get him back. But we’ve got to be smart. We can’t get him hurt again.”

It’s a common theme, and Green understands.

“No need to put myself in a dangerous situation if I’m not ready,” he said. “It’ll come back. It’s just a matter of getting that function back. That’s just going to come with time. I’ve just got to be patient with that and adjust accordingly.”

Chimera OK

An inch lower and Jason Chimera could have been in real trouble. A hard shot by Alexander Semin deflected off Rangers goaltender Martin Biron’s shoulder and grazed Chimera’s helmet Wednesday night, a very scary moment.

The forward confirmed Thursday he was all right. It was more of a surprise to him that the puck hit the front of his helmet. He had no-ill effects from the shot.

Line change

The Caps’ most consistent line this season has been the trio of Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward. On Thursday, for the first time this season, that line wore gray jerseys at practice, indicative of the second line.

It’s mostly window dressing, as the line of Marcus Johansson, Jeff Halpern and Troy Brouwer was successful against New York but in green as No. 3 on Thursday.

At the end of the day, if both lines are clicking, which order they take the ice in doesn’t matter.

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