- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2013

Marcus Johansson can’t say much about the upper-body injury that has kept him out for the Washington Capitals’ past five games. But the forward was able to skate Wednesday and Thursday and noted at least some progress.

“It’s getting better and better every day, I think,” Johansson said. “It was fun being out there today. I miss skating a lot. It felt good.”

Johansson, who hasn’t played since Feb. 7 at the Pittsburgh Penguins, is out indefinitely.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and hopefully it will be 100 percent soon, and that’s what we’re going for,” he said. “We have no time or date or anything.”

Coach Adam Oates said Johansson had been dealing with the injury for a long time.

“It’s been awhile,” the 22-year-old said.

Johansson reportedly suffered a back injury while playing for BIK Karlskoga in Sweden’s second-tier league, Allsvenskan, during the NHL lockout.

He skated along with teammates during Thursday’s morning skate but did not appear to be pressing too hard.

“It was his first practice, back with the guys,” Oates said. “I thought he did a pretty good job and he said he felt pretty good.”

The Caps continue to list Johansson as day-to-day despite Wednesday being his first time on the ice with any teammates in well over a week. Defenseman Jack Hillen, who general manager George McPhee said recently would be out six to eight weeks, is also called day-to-day by the team.

At least Hillen has something of a timeline. Johansson must be careful not to rush back and make his injury worse.

“I’m out right now, and if it happens again maybe I’m out for a longer time,” Johansson said. “You never know. I just want to make sure everything is all right before I play again. Hopefully as soon as possible. I miss playing and that’s what I want to do every day. It’s tough, but it’s necessary.”

Brooks Laich (groin) did not skate for the fifth straight day Thursday. Oates said he didn’t have an update on the injured forward.

Green out versus Devils

Mike Green missed Thursday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils because of a lower-body injury. It was the second straight game out of the lineup for the Caps’ No. 1 defenseman.

Green took part in the morning skate and pregame warm-ups and was considered a game-time decision. But after missing 41 games last season with a groin strain that turned into an abdominal tear and required sports hernia surgery, the 27-year-old learned a lesson about not rushing back.

“It’s frustrating but you’ve got to be smart,” Green said Thursday morning. “I’ve been through this before so I know what to do and what not to do.”

Taste of playoffs

With the Devils staying in town for the second half of a rare back-to-back set at Verizon Center, the Caps get a little taste of the playoffs in February.

“I haven’t done it before and I’m sure it will be highly competitive,” left wing Wojtek Wolski said.

Good playoff series grow with the hatred of two teams seeing each other a lot in a short period of time. Emotion comes “naturally” in back-to-backs, Oates said, and the Caps and Devils face each other again Saturday afternoon.

“Something always seems to happen in that first game that carries over to the second game,” Wolski said. “Guys don’t really forget. I know guys that have kept grudges for a full year until you play a team the next time and you still remember what happened. So this being two nights after, I’m sure that it’s going to be highly competitive.”

It’s the first time the Caps have played consecutive home games against the same opponent since April 5 and 7, 2006, against the Carolina Hurricanes. They’ll play back-to-back games at the Winnipeg Jets in March, which is similar to when American Hockey League teams play two games in one place because of travel concerns.

“I personally don’t love it like that. I personally like to see different teams,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I like to have a bit of a change but at the same time it’s good for us and for learning. We get to really test things out against a team that plays the same way as us, so that part is kind of cool.”

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

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