- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mike Green took the ice Tuesday at the Washington Capitals’ practice facility as his teammates were doing sprints. Wearing a backwards cap, a navy blue hooded sweatshirt and tights, the injured defenseman tested something out rather than taking part.

That’s better than not skating at all, it seems, though the No. 1 defenseman’s status for Thursday’s game at the New Jersey Devils is still unclear as he deals with a lower-body injury.

“He’s feeling better,” coach Adam Oates said. “He just wanted to go touch the ice. And he’s going to probably practice with us tomorrow.”

Green practicing with the Caps on Wednesday would be an important step in returning to the lineup after missing Sunday night’s game at the New York Rangers. Oates said Green is still “day-to-day.”

It was evident against the Rangers how much the Caps missed Green, his point shot on the power play and his ability to move the puck swiftly up the ice. Not to mention the fact that he consistently leads the team in ice time.

“He’s a big part of our D corps,” defenseman John Erskine said. “You watch him on the ice, he can get the puck and move it out so smoothly. It’s a big loss for us, but we got guys that will step in and play those minutes. That’s what a team’s all about.”

Being a team also means, in part, cautioning Green not to rush back, even as the Caps are without forward Brooks Laich, who hasn’t played this year because of a groin injury. Green in recent years has missed time with a concussion, shoulder problems, an ankle injury and, most recently, a groin strain that eventually required sports hernia surgery.

“Hopefully Mike will make the right decision on that,” Oates said.

Laich, who’s trying to make progress with the groin injury, did not skate Tuesday. That marked the third straight day off the ice for the 29-year-old, though Oates insisted Laich did not suffer a setback. The coach said he was still considered day-to-day.

Forward Marcus Johansson, who has missed the past three games since the team announced he had an upper-body injury, also was not on the ice. Oates said he believed Johansson was going to skate by himself Wednesday.

Defenseman Jack Hillen, who is expected to be out at least another month with an upper-body injury, skated but has not been cleared for contact. Hillen was injured in the season opener Jan. 19 at the Tampa Bay Lightning when his left shoulder slammed into the boards.

Bag skate time

With three days between games, Oates used Tuesday to put his players through the first “real” conditioning practice of the season.

“You’re playing back-to-back and every other day, you get into game shape,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “Just because we got a couple extra days off, it’s nice to get a good little sweat, especially after a day off [Monday].”

Sprints around the ice capped off the hourlong workout that defenseman Jeff Schultz called a “good, working practice.”

“We knew we were going to go through the paces,” right wing Joel Ward said. “We had a day off, couple days off so we knew it would be a good day at work. There was nothing wrong with it. It was a good practice, hardworking practice, for sure.”

Forward Matt Hendricks said the Caps “needed” a practice like that, given this break in the schedule. Plenty of guys were huffing and puffing trying to catch their breath, but it was just what center Jay Beagle wanted.

“Yeah, I loved that,” Beagle said. “It was a great practice. It was something that I love to do, a little bag skate.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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