Dennis Wideman joked recently that the right leg hematoma he suffered in March makes that leg “instantly older” — like 37-year-old Capitals teammate Roman Hamrlik.
Injuries to Washington’s defensemen over the weekend gave both of Wideman’s legs quite a workout, as he played by far a game-high 33:52 Saturday and 27:11 Friday.
“I don’t know if it’s tough for him. He’s got iron lungs — that’s what we call him, at least,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “He’s one of those guys that he can play forever.”
In playing the equivalent of three games in two days, Wideman showed he could skate forever. And moving forward to Tuesday’s game at the Nashville Predators and the rest of the road trip with Mike Green hurt and at least two other defensemen banged up, Wideman might be counted on to take on the lion’s share of minutes.
If the Capitals have any more problems along the blue line, it could mean taxing Wideman even further — something that inevitably takes away from his game.
“It kind of lacks what you can do offensively, and you’re just trying to make sure you don’t get scored on when you’re out there,” Wideman said. “You’re probably not going to jump up in the play and really push it. You follow up the play but probably not try to lead the rush or really get in there.”
In other words, it prevents Wideman from being Wideman. As an offensive-minded defenseman, the 28-year-old is third on the team in points with 12 (three goals, nine assists).
A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Green suffered a groin injury Friday against New Jersey. He did not fly with the team to Nashville, coach Bruce Boudreau said, but as he has before, Wideman insisted he doesn’t do anything differently.
“Just because Mike Green’s not in the lineup, doesn’t make me all of a sudden have hands,” Wideman said. “If he’s not playing, I’m not just all of a sudden Mike Green. I still got to play the same way.”
Wideman is at his best when he can take some offensive chances, but there’s not the same incentive to do that if he’s playing around 30 minutes in a tight game.
“Dennis is a smart defenseman, so he knows when he’s playing 33 minutes that he can’t do those things. He does it,” Boudreau said. “You’re not going to get the offense out of him that you normally would when you’re playing [him] 21 or 22 minutes because it’s just impossible to do.”
Wideman jokes about not being Green, but Boudreau has called their styles similar — with the exception of a speed disparity. But if Green is out, Wideman has to hold back a bit.
That would make it more difficult to spark the offense if a comeback is required.
“If you’ve got to push the envelope, and you’ve got to go and you don’t have the spring in your legs anymore, it makes it a little more tough,” Wideman said. “It’s not that often I’m all the way up in the play, anyway. Just make the good breakout passes and follow up.”
Hamrlik and John Erskine are expected to play Tuesday night, even though Hamrlik left Saturday’s game with an “upper-body” injury and Erskine was scratched.
The Caps only have six healthy defensemen (meaning that they’re able to play, not 100 percent) on the trip. One injury could push forward Brooks Laich back on defense yet again. Boudreau said that without back-to-back games on the road swing, there wasn’t an immediate need to call up a defenseman from Hershey.
That puts even more of an onus on the Caps’ blue line corps to stay healthy, but it’s not something they dwell on.
“If you start thinking that way, I think it takes away from your game, especially the way we want to play,” Alzner said. “We want to try to be more aggressive and play as hard as possible that if you start thinking like that, it’s going to put a little bit of a hinder in your game. We don’t want that. We want everyone to play hard; if you get hurt, you get hurt.”
If another injury happens, well, that’s something Wideman and the Caps don’t even want to consider.