Green's Injury Forces Juggling
Struggling Capitals Recall Schultz to Bolster Ailing Defense

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2007

OTTAWA, Jan. 17 -- Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green will miss Thursday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes -- and could be out longer -- after being hit on his left foot by a slap shot Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place.

An X-ray taken immediately following the 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Capitals' third consecutive defeat, didn't reveal a fracture. But General Manager George McPhee said the extent of Green's injury won't be known until some of the swelling subsides.

"It's a little more than day-to-day," McPhee said at Bell Sensplex in suburban Ottawa, where Washington practiced Wednesday.

The sight of Green hobbling around on crutches was a worrisome one for the reeling Capitals, who already are beset by injuries on the blueline. Veterans Bryan Muir and John Erskine each have missed about a month because of a broken foot and aren't expected back until after next week's All-Star Game.

To replace Green, who is averaging 16 minutes 35 seconds of ice time and has a plus-minus rating of plus-5, prospect Jeff Schultz is expected to be recalled from Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League.

Schultz, 20, will join the Capitals in Raleigh, N.C., in time to face Rod Brind'Amour and the surging Hurricanes. They've won four of their past five and are sixth in the Eastern Conference, seven spots ahead of the Capitals.

Green was injured as he marked Senators defenseman Christoph Schubert, who wound up and unleashed a blistering slap shot nine minutes into the first period. Green attempted to return but left the game two shifts into the second period.

"I think he was trying to shoot between my legs," Green said. "I've just got to try to stay off it and keep icing it. It's feeling okay right now, but it was a little sore when I was sleeping."

The injury also comes at a difficult time for Green. The 21-year-old is scheduled to play next Tuesday in the YoungStars Game during the all-star festivities in Dallas.

"I really want to play," he said. "Hopefully, it's not as serious and I'll be back by the weekend. Hopefully, but you never know."

Green's absence will force Coach Glen Hanlon to juggle his defensive pairings against the Hurricanes. The most notable change being considered involves splitting the top tandem of Shaone Morrisonn and Brian Pothier. Hanlon wouldn't be more specific about the possible combinations.

Although the injuries to Green, Muir and Erskine probably are just random incidents, there's some thought that the lightweight skates players are wearing these days could be a contributing factor. They help players skate faster, but the tradeoff is less protection from low, hard shots. Many players also have switched to high-tech composite sticks, which increases the velocity of their shots.

"With the way the skates are these days and how hard guys shoot, it's amazing guys don't break their feet every single game," Hanlon said.

McPhee added: "There's never been enough protection in the skates. We've always felt that defensemen should wear extra protection in the boot. And some do. It's something we'll have to address with our players. It's not a macho thing. It's okay to wear extra protection. It's about keeping them in the lineup."

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