Capitals defenseman Mike Green appeared on the ice late in Tuesday’s workout as he continues to come back from a lower-body injury suffered last Thursday at Tampa Bay. Later, Coach Adam Oates continued to call Green “day-to-day” when asked if he could be available when Washington hosts New Jersey at Verizon Center on Thursday night.
“He’s feeling better,” Oates said. “He just wanted to go touch the ice. He’s going to probably practice with us tomorrow.”
While his teammates pushed through conditioning drills, Green – in a blue sweatshirt and backward cap – tested out his injury for about five minutes. When the group headed to center ice for stretching afterward, he left the bench and began flicking shots onto an empty net.
Green, 27, missed Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden and was replaced in the lineup by Tom Poti. The veteran played for the first time in nearly two weeks and logged 9 minutes, 46 seconds on the ice as the team had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Tomas Kundratek, the 23-year-old who was recalled from Hershey on Jan. 21, also saw increased minutes, playing a career-high 23:25 against the team that drafted him in 2008.
Oates said he hoped Green, who was limited to 32 games last season because of a groin injury that eventually turned into an abdominal tear and required surgery, will be smart about his recovery and expressed confidence in Kundratek.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Oates said. “He’s played good hockey. A real tough environment the other night – New York’s a tough building. When it gets rocking, it’s tough, it’s overwhelming. It’s a valuable opportunity for him.”
Green’s appearance on the ice Tuesday marked the first time he’s been seen skating since Saturday. He went through a roughly 15-minute skating session that day and then did not take part in Sunday’s morning skate, though he did make the trip to New York. The team had Monday off thanks to a rare three-day break ahead of Thursday night’s game.
Through the first 14 games of the season, Green has slid back into his familiar role on the defense, leading the team in average ice time at 26 minutes, 33 seconds per game. He has recorded two goals and five assists.
“You want your best players out there,” said center Mike Ribeiro, the team’s leader at 18 points. “If he can play, I’m sure he’s going to be there.”
Oates also provided updates on the other two players on the active roster who missed Tuesday’s workout. The first-year coach called center Brooks Laich (groin) “day-to-day,” adding that the veteran who has not played yet this season has not suffered a setback in his recovery.
Oates said center Marcus Johansson, who has not played since Feb. 7 because of an upper-body injury, plans to skate on his own on Wednesday.
Defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) was on the ice for Monday’s workout, but Oates said he has not yet been cleared for contact. He has been out since taking a check from Tampa Bay’s Vincent LeCavalier in the season opener.
On Feb. 8, General Manager George McPhee said Hillen would likely be out for six to eight weeks, meaning he’s likely at least a month away from returning to action.