- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mike Green returned to the Washington Capitals lineup Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes after a three-game absence because of a groin injury.

The defenseman is by far the Caps’ leader in ice time, averaging 26:33 a game before the injury. In the meantime, the team leaned heavily on John Carlson.

“We need [Green]; he plays a lot of minutes,” coach Adam Oates said. “We really wore Carly out, and it’d be great to have him back and reduce some of his stress. He’s a top defenseman in this league.”

Carlson played 26:15, 30:34 and 22:42 in the three games Green missed. The 23-year-old had a goal and a minus-1 rating.

“I thought he played fantastic,” Oates said of Carlson. “But it’s not something you want to do. You don’t want to play a guy 30 minutes; you want to have him fresher as the game goes along. I thought he played great for us.”

Green on Monday pronounced himself 100 percent and said a couple of days off made all the difference. He expressed no concern about playing in the Caps’ back-to-back games, Tuesday against Carolina and Wednesday at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“The reason why I’m able to play is because I’m 100 percent,” Green said. “And it was either kind of battle through it on Saturday or else wait until I’m 100 percent so I could play the back-to-backs. So here we are.”

Oates similarly dismissed any worries about the back-to-back games.

“It’s not an injury that gets tired,” Oates said. “You can either play or you can’t.”

Orlov update

Dmitry Orlov was cleared for contact this week, but the 21-year-old defenseman might not be able to play in a game with the Hershey Bears any time soon.

Orlov suffered an upper-body injury that’s believed to be a concussion when the Bears played the Norfolk Admirals at Verizon Center on Dec. 6. He began skating with Hershey teammates recently, but Tuesday was the first time he was able to skate without a no-contact jersey.

“I think it is a significant [step],” Bears coach Mark French said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Because of the duration that he’s been out, he’s been skating with us the last few weeks, but the fact that he’s been cleared to take contact now I think is a real good step.

“I think he was energized by that today and was real excited to be out there and have no restrictions on him. And hopefully we can progress and keep moving forward with him.”

French said he believed the plan was for Orlov to have two weeks of practicing with contact and then the team will evaluate him “almost on a daily basis.” Orlov won’t be able to play this weekend for the Bears, French said, though he was hopeful about the following weekend.

It’s not certain if Orlov will make any kind of impact with the Caps this season once he’s cleared to play in games.

“I think that’s way down the line,” Oates said. “He’s missed a lot of time. So I can’t say he’s been on my radar. Obviously he’s a prospect, played some games here last year, I had him in Hershey. He got hurt in Hershey, too. I really can’t say that I really evaluated him down there.”

Orlov played 60 games for the Caps in 2011-12, putting up three goals and 16 assists. He had one goal and eight assists in 18 games for Hershey before getting injured.

Ice chips

Wednesday’s game at the Flyers will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic in the D.C. area and nationally on the NBC Sports Network. It is a 7:30 p.m. start. … Defenseman Jeff Schultz was a healthy scratch Tuesday night against the Hurricanes upon Green’s return, as Tom Poti stayed in the lineup. Oates said he and his staff wanted to continue evaluating Poti.

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