(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

The Capitals will be without top defenseman Mike Green when they take on the New York Rangers tonight, Coach Adam Oates said after the morning skate.

Green, 27, suffered a lower-body injury late in Washington’s 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday and did not take part in the optional workout at Madison Square Garden Sunday morning ahead of the matchup with the Rangers.

His absence means the Capitals will be without their ice-time leader – he skates an average of 26 minutes 33 seconds per game, good for sixth most in the league – and their power-play quarterback.

“He’s an important player for us. He’s playing a lot of minutes too and he’s really good out there,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “It’s not good that we’re going to play without him. Other guys have got to step forward.”

Oates said while he doesn’t know how much time Green will miss, he’s optimistic it will only be the one game. “Hopefully just tonight. He’s got a few more days,” Oates said, referencing the three days the Capitals have between tonight’s tilt with the Rangers and their next game.

Tom Poti will take Green’s place in the lineup and Oates said he plans to simply insert the 35-year-old into a pairing with Karl Alzner to start the contest. It will mark Poti’s first game since Feb. 5 against Toronto.

“I’m pumped,” Poti said. “It’ll be fun to get back in playing some games and having some fun.”

Without Green, expect to see John Carlson take over the point on the Capitals top power play unit and Tomas Kundratek to get more responsibility on the man-advantage as well. Alex Ovechkin said while Washington will certainly miss Green on the power play, he’s confident his teammates can fill the void.

“I think he’s our best D,” Ovechkin said. “Of course it’s going to hurt us but we’re going to have different guys on PP and different guys going to have more ice time.”

Late against the Lightning, Green appeared to be laboring down the ice to get back in the play on Nate Thompson’s breakaway goal and the defenseman left the game with 2 minutes and 40 seconds remaining in that contest. Green skated for only 15 minutes Saturday and didn’t step on the ice Sunday although he did travel to New York with the team and was seen walking around the visitors’ dressing room.

In other morning skate news, Joel Ward was the only healthy player who did not participate in the workout. He took the option not to skate, Oates said, and will play against the Rangers. Brooks Laich, who continues to recover from a groin injury, did not skate today.

With that in mind, the Capitals lineup should look the same as it has the past three games except that Poti will take Green’s place in the top defensive pairing.



Goal: Holtby, Neuvirth