By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
DALLAS, Jan. 22 -- When Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green was struck on the foot by a slap shot last week, his initial fear was that the injury would cause him to miss Tuesday's YoungStars Game.
It almost did.
His status remained in doubt over the next three days as he hobbled around the Capitals' practice facility on crutches. But Green's recovery has been quicker than expected, and the 21-year-old confirmed Monday that he'll suit up for the exhibition that also will feature Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin, Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen and Buffalo winger Thomas Vanek, among other up-and-coming players.
"I'm looking forward to playing with some of the best young guys in the league," Green said. "It's a great honor to be here and to be a part of something I grew up watching. I would have been very disappointed if I couldn't play."
Green joins second-year sensation Alex Ovechkin as Washington's representatives in this week's festivities. Ovechkin was selected by fans to start Wednesday's All-Star Game alongside forwards Sidney Crosby of the Penguins and Daniel Briere of the Sabres.
As for Green, his selection as a YoungStar caps a memorable year for the 2004 first-round draft pick. Last spring, he was an integral part of the Hershey (Pa.) Bears' American Hockey League championship squad and became the first Capitals prospect named to that league's all-rookie team.
Although Green has occasionally experienced growing pains in his first full NHL season, he's second among Capitals defensemen in plus-minus with a rating of plus-3 and has a pair of goals and six assists.
"Making the playoffs would absolutely make this a perfect year," Green said.
His short-term focus will be keeping pace with some of the game's top talents while skating on a left foot that's less than 100 percent. After being hit by Ottawa Senators defenseman Christoph Schubert's shot last Tuesday, he missed Thursday's game before returning to the lineup for Saturday's loss to the Florida Panthers.
"It's still a little sore," Green said. "But it's a whole lot better than it was just last game. If I wasn't going to be here, my focus would have been on getting ready to play for Washington. But I'm glad it's good enough to let me play here."Hip Meets High-Tech
It's already called the fastest game on earth. And if claims about the NHL's new uniforms are accurate, it's about to get even faster.
In addition to featuring 21 new faces, the All-Star Game at American Airlines Center also will mark the debut of the league's high-tech uniform "system" consisting of sleeker jerseys, shorts and socks, which are 14 percent lighter, 10 percent cooler, water-resistant and provide a greater range of motion. The pants also have about 60 percent more hip protection than the current ones.
And get this: The uniforms also are supposed to reduce drag by 9 percent, according to wind tunnel testing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"I heard that it makes you faster," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom joked. "That's something that can help as I get older."
Crosby also praised the streamlined look, saying the jersey "moves with you instead of against you."
After nearly three years of testing, and dozens of prototypes, the Rbk EDGE Uniform System by Reebok will become standard issue equipment next season.
Ovechkin said that the new uniforms aren't all about function.
"It's cool, it's comfortable and it's stylish -- just like me," he cracked.Full Schedule for Ovechkin
Ovechkin will participate in the "Fastest Skater," "In the Zone" and "Breakaway Relay" events in the SuperSkills competition, which follows the YoungStars Game. He also managed to maintain a sense of humor about starting Wednesday's game on a line with Briere, a player with whom he's exchanged questionable hits this season. We'll "just fight in the locker room," he said with a smile. "No, we just shake hands, see how is everything. Everything is okay. It was just two moments, me and him. So I think everybody forget." He paused and added, "But not you," as he smiled at his questioner, a reporter from the Buffalo News. . . .
The Capitals recalled forward Jakub Klepis on Monday.