On the day he’s set to re-join the Capitals for his first game in more than six weeks, defenseman Mike Green got in his final on-ice preparation during this morning’s optional skate before tonight’s playoff opener at Verizon Center.
Although Coach Bruce Boudreau for a second straight day indicated Green’s status would be determined shortly before face-off, the two-time Norris Trophy finalist and his teammates spoke as if his participation was all but a certainty.
More indications of that came from this morning’s scratches skate that included defensemen Tyler Sloan and Sean Collins.
Green missed the Capitals’ final 20 games and 26 of 28 following a Feb. 6 game against Pittsburgh during which he took a puck to side of the head and then after he was struck in the jaw along the boards by New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan on Feb. 25.
“I’ve been so excited to get back here,” Green said. “I’ve been ready for a while. It’s just a matter of timing, and what a better way to start playing again than in the playoffs?”
Green at first was in line to come back on Saturday for the Capitals’ regular season finale yet despite near assurances he would be on the ice against Florida wound up not making the trip.
Green’s status has been in flux throughout his recovery, and his availability has become more of a pressing issue with defenseman Dennis Wideman out for at least the first round of the postseason with a leg hematoma and compartment syndrome. The Capitals had acquired Wideman to add another skilled puck mover along the blue line in Green’s absence.
“It means a lot,” defenseman Scott Hannan said of having Green back in the lineup. “I mean he’s a top defenseman in this league. He moves the puck. He skates well. He adds a threat to our power play. Anytime you can get a player like that back, it’s going to be a bonus.”
Missing 33 games this season limited Green to eight goals, but when healthy, he’s among the most potent offensive defensemen in the league, especially on the power play. Of Green’s 58 regular-season goals over the past three seasons, 33 have come on that unit.
Based on the morning skate, it appears Green will join John Erskine as the third defensive pairing in order to ease Green back onto the ice. That leaves Hannan with Jeff Schultz, who often has skated with Green, as the second pairing. The top defensive pairing remains John Carlson and Karl Alzner.
“It’s huge,” Carlson said of Green’s return. “He’s a guy we’ve missed, and he’s been out a long time now. He brings a lot of energy and a lot of skill to the game, and he can only help us.”