NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Green can’t seem to catch a break. Just a bit over seven minutes of ice time into his return to the Capitals’ lineup Friday, the All-Star defenseman got hurt again.
This time, it’s a groin injury. Officially he’s still listed as day-to-day, and coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday he was hopeful Green would be able to join the Caps at some point during their road trip.
But Green did not skate Tuesday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and it’s not yet known how long he could be out of the lineup. Tuesday night represents the eighth game this season without Green.
“I don’t think you can ever get used to playing without a guy like that,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “He just brings so much to the table.”
Green is arguably as valuable to the Caps’ team success as any player — and that includes Alex Ovechkin. That’s nothing against the face of the franchise, but Green’s uncanny ability to run the power play while also eating up minutes on the penalty kill and jumping up into the play five-on-five is hard to replace.
Saturday night, the Caps found out what it was like to be without Green and John Erskine and also lose Roman Hamrlik for much of the game. Erskine and Hamrlik return Tuesday, but with them banged up, the onus has been on the likes of Alzner, John Carlson and Dennis Wideman.
“It seems like one guy goes down, there’s a couple going down at once,” Erskine said. “We have Carly and Alzy there — they’ve been playing a lot. We’ve got the young bodies and they’re doing well.”
Familiarity has helped the Caps, given that they meshed without Green last season when Scott Hannan was part of the rotation. This time it’s Hamrlik, but the bulk of the blue line hasn’t changed.
“We want him back, but at the same time we’ve all played with each other now,” Alzner said. “We all know how to play with each other. That’s something that’s good.”
As Wideman joked Monday, he doesn’t transform into Green when his teammate is out.
“Just because Mike Green’s not in the lineup, doesn’t make me all of a sudden have hands,” Wideman said.
Wideman brings some of that offensive presence, as he’s third on the team in scoring. But he also had to play the equivalent of three games in two nights over the weekend. If another injury happens, who knows what will transpire.
Logically, a call-up from the Hershey Bears would likely be in order, in the form of Patrick McNeill or Dmitry Orlov. Tom Poti, who has not played since Jan. 12 and is on long-term injured reserve, is not even close to being an option.
“Tom is continuing with his rehab but there is no timetable on his return,” his agent, Paul Krepelka, wrote in an email.
That’s no surprise. And with Green’s absence for at least the start of the road trip hanging over the Caps, players know they can band together to make up for him being out but they’re a much more dangerous team with him.
“Greenie’s got to do what he’s got to do to get healthy and then once he’s healthy, then we’ll have him back,” Alzner said. “But we want that guy back.”