Amid uncertainty about the health of several defensemen, the Washington Capitals received a bit of good news Friday. Mike Green took part in a light practice with teammates in Arlington for close to an hour and said he is no longer experiencing symptoms of the concussion he suffered on Feb. 25.
It was an optional practice, with only 11 other players taking the ice, but Green skated hard and showed his usual deft ability for stick handling and weaving through teammates.
“That’s the most I’ve done in a long time here,” Green said. “I felt good. That’s the most important thing. I don’t have anything going on, and each day’s been better and it was nice to get a good skate in.”
Green said he is still hoping to play in one of the Capitals’ four remaining regular season games, which includes Saturday’s contest against potential first-round opponent Buffalo at Verizon Center.
Washington’s battered defensive corps could certainly use the two-time Norris Trophy finalist back in the lineup once he’s healthy.
Dennis Wideman, who has averaged more than 24 minutes per game since joining the Capitals at the trade deadline, is out indefinitely and in the hospital with a leg hematoma and compartment syndrome. Tom Poti is still out with a groin injury, which has limited him to only parts of 21 games this season. Most recently, John Erskine left Thursday’s game against Columbus after skating only one shift following a fight with Jared Boll.
Coach Bruce Boudreau insisted the undisclosed injury is “definitely not long term,” but if Erskine is unable to play Saturday against the Sabres, the Capitals will need to decide whether they recall a player from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears or perhaps have a forward moonlight as a blue-liner.
Only one Hershey defenseman, Brian Fahey, has played in Washington this season. Fahey has skated with the Capitals in seven games, which are the only NHL contests of his career. The Capitals could also turn to their own roster and have a forward play on the back end. Boudreau has used players such as Brooks Laich and former Capital Sergei Fedorov for spot duty in the past.
“We’ve got a lot of options,” Boudreau said. “We’ve gone through a lot of them, and I don’t want to reveal all the options. A forward playing defense is not out of line. Brooks has played there before and done okay. He’s not Sergei Fedorov back there like when we had him, but that’s certainly something we are considering.”
Even as he discussed possible options to shore up the Capitals’ blue line should Erskine miss time, Boudreau said no circumstance would force Washington to rush Green back.
“I think you want him to come back, but you’re fighting yourself because you’ve got to do the right thing,” Boudreau said. “When he’s ready, he’ll come back — not before. No matter what happens.”
Green began wearing glasses and contacts this week after seeing an optometrist, but he said his need for the eyewear is the same as Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier’s situation following a concussion. Pothier missed more than a year with post-concussion syndrome that included the development of astigmatism in his right eye, which was corrected by glasses and vision therapy.
While Green said he expects it to take about four or five days to get his feel for the ice back, he said he will not try to push himself into the lineup too quickly, either.
“I understand now that it takes time and patience,” Green said. “There is no point in rushing things here before playoffs. I think that it’s more important that we’ve been doing what we’re doing. The training staff has done a great job of helping me get back. It’s just a matter of me being ready for playoffs.”