For seven games the Capitals had a good thing going defensively with healthy players, consistency in pairings, roles and ice time distribution. If Mike Green can’t play tonight, though — and given Coach Bruce Boudreau’s comments, his participation against the Oilers seems unlikely — it will force the Capitals to adjust all of that at least for one night.
Boudreau said Wednesday that it “doesn’t look good” for the blueliner to be ready to face Edmonton after Green missed three days of practice with a twisted right ankle suffered against the Detroit Red Wings.
Green leads Washington in time on ice per game (22:45) and power-play time per game (3:51) and also contributes 1:27 per game on the penalty kill. Making up for all that responsibility will be a group effort.
“There’s a little bit of slack we’ll all pick up, but it’s hard to replace a Mike Green out there,” Jeff Schultz said. “If everybody picks their game up five or 10 percent, hopefully the six of us that are in there can do just as good a job.”
The absence of the two-time Norris Trophy finalist means Sean Collins will get a sweater for the first time since playing in Game 4 against Tampa Bay when the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs last spring. Collins is slotted on the third pairing with Schultz, who has played with the Hershey regular before.
“He’s going to stay at home like myself but it’s about good communication and being able to help each other out during a game,” Schultz said. “Hopefully we can get up to speed quickly.”
Dennis Wideman has moved alongside Roman Hamrlik, Green’s usual partner, in practices this week. The veterans played several preseason games together and showed an ability to adapt to the other’s playing style on the fly, but those exhibition contests are still the only time they’ve ever worked together as a defensive unit.
“They’re both veteran guys and they’re experienced and they play off each other well,” Boudreau said of Wideman and Hamrlik. “I’m wondering… now that Wideman and Schultz are playing well together, whether we should have broke them up.”
Wideman already averages 3:04 a night on the power play, with Hamrlik recording 1:21 on average, and both of those numbers will likely increase without Green in the mix. Second-year blueliner John Carlson will see the biggest uptick, though, as he’ll slide in on the point to help pick up some of Green’s minutes.
Carlson’s average power-play time per game has dipped to 52 seconds this year, down from 2:12 in 2010-11, and part of that is because when he and Karl Alzner are playing against top lines it’s easier for Boudreau to have them ready to go when a power play expires rather than taxing the 21-year-old more.
“We’re blessed. There’s no doubt about it. We’re fortunate that Carly can jump in there and he’s a good offensive defenseman,” Boudreau said. “He’s accepted his role right now as a really good defensive defenseman. I’m sure every chance he gets on the power play he’s going to relish it and hopefully take advantage of it.”