Capitals defenseman Mike Green said Tuesday he was sure he would be on the ice Wednesday night for Game 1 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center. Coach Bruce Boudreau, however, didn’t go that far, calling the all-star’s availability a “game-time decision.”
Green missed the Capitals’ final 20 games and 26 of 28 following a Feb. 6 game against Pittsburgh in which he was struck in the side of the head by a puck. The two-time finalist for the Norris Trophy played Feb. 12 against Los Angeles before skating just two shifts against the Rangers on Feb. 25.
In that 6-0 loss, Green came in from behind on New York forward Derek Stepan, who was trying to handle the puck along the boards. Stepan raised his left side and connected with Green’s jaw, forcing him from the game with a concussion after 2 minutes 25 seconds of ice time.
“Absolutely, yeah,” Green said when asked if was ready to go after practice. “I feel great and in game-shape ready to play.”
Asked again immediately thereafter, he said: “I’ll be playing. Expect to see me out there.”
Of course, we’ve been here before with Green, who said in the days leading up to Washington’s regular season finale on Saturday he was confident he would play. Green then did not travel with the club to Florida to face the Panthers.
Green’s status has been fluid throughout his recovery, and his availability has become a bit more urgent considering puck-moving defenseman Dennis Wideman is out for at least the first round of the postseason with a leg hematoma. The Capitals had acquired Wideman to help alleviate some of the pressure off the rest of the defense in Green’s absence.
“I think he’s ready to play,” Boudreau said of Green. “It’s a question of how he feels tomorrow, and if he’s comfortable playing, and if we’re comfortable putting him in, I guess. We’ll figure it all out tomorrow, but he looks fine out there.”
Based on Green’s extensive participation in practice Tuesday morning, it appears he’s on track to re-join the club sooner rather than later. The Capitals worked primarily on special teams, and Green skated with the top units on both the power play and penalty kill.
Green has been among Washington’s most potent offensive threats on the blue line, having scored 50 goals combined over his previous two seasons before injuries limited him to eight goals this season. The Capitals also rely heavily on Green on the power play, where over the past three seasons he has scored 33 of his 58 total goals.
“For me it’s exciting,” said Green, who indicated there’s some extra incentive in coming back against the team that knocked him out for the final portion of the regular season. “It’s been frustrating sitting out this long, and I’ve been ready for a while but just making sure I’m in game shape to play, and finally the day is here. I was just excited to be out there with the boys. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Said Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz, who often is paired with Green, about his teammate’s presumptive return against the Rangers: “I know that Mike’s ready to play. No matter who we’re playing, I think he would have been back in.”