Mike Green will miss a second straight game after suffering a lower-body contusion against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 12. The Capitals’ defenseman was on the ice at the team’s practice facility Sunday morning for a lengthy scratches skate and appears to be improving, but Coach Adam Oates said Green isn’t quite ready to return.
“He’s out there, he’s moving around. [It’s] still bugging him a little bit,” Oates said. “And even now he’s had a few days off, it’d be tough to put him right in the lineup without a practice.”
Without Green the Capitals will rely on the same rather inexperienced defensive group once again — only Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Tyson Strachan have played over 100 NHL games. They held up well against the Red Wings in Detroit Friday night but will face another tough challenge from the Blues, who are known for their strong defensive play but have a group of forwards that can wear opponents down.
“They like to hit but I would say the biggest thing I notice is in the offensive zone they all protect the puck, that’s where you see their size to me. Like [Jason Chimera and Joel Ward] do for us,” Oates said. “When Wardo gets it down there you know they’re going to be down there for 10-15 seconds. They’ve got a lot of guys that are willing to play like that. That takes its toll on our D when a guy’s standing still protecting the puck, they’re big strong men.”
Oates called the Blues “clearly” one of the best teams in the league with their combination of burly forwards and, true to a Ken Hitchcock coached squad, an unwavering commitment to defense. While the Capitals are catching the Blues playing their third game in four nights, on the second half of back-to-backs after beating Carolina 4-2 at home Saturday in St. Louis Oates’s message to his players this morning stressed the need for patience and willingness to play a low-scoring game just like it did against Minnesota two weeks ago.
“I said the same speech to them today. You worry about saying the same thing over and over, but they’re stingy,” Oates said. “I showed them clips when they’re back there’s five guys back, they don’t give you much. If you got a shot you’ve go to to take it and if not you’ve got to throw it back behind the net and wear them out. That’s the way they’re built. They look like they’ve been modeling L.A. the last couple years. They don’t want to give up a lot of chances, you have to be willing to understand that.”
Here are the projected lineups for both teams.
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Tarasenko-Patrik Berglund-Jaden Schwartz
Brenden Morrow-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart
Derek Roy-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole-Roman Polak
Jaroslav Halak is expected to start. Brian Elliott will back up.