Star defensemen back at full health
It has been two years since the Capitals have seen the real Mike Green. Once one of the NHL's most entertaining players, injuries had instead turned him into a pedestrian defenseman. That was the complete opposite of his always endearing, occasionally infuriating on-ice persona.
Now apparently healthy and with a new contract, the 27-year-old is intent on regaining his old form. You can see it in the return of his powerful skating stride. A groin injury that later required sports hernia surgery robbed him of that for most of last season. You can see it, too, in the way he chases down an opposing forward on the rush and disrupts a scoring chance.
Through five games the Capitals have allowed 19 goals. Green has been on the ice for only three of them. Washington has scored just 11 times, but Green has been on the ice for five, and his breakout pass started a sixth. He only lost credit after skating to the bench just before Wojtek Wolski's goal in the second period of the season opener at Tampa Bay.
|Capitals at Senators|
|When » Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.|
|Where » Scotiabank Place,|
|TV » CSN|
"We all know what he can do when he's really on his game," Washington general manager George McPhee said of Green earlier this month. "He's a very effective player and fun to watch. And when those guys are playing the way they can play and they're really on top of their game, they're difference makers."
With his team down 2-0 early in the third period against New Jersey on Friday, Green faked a dump-in as the Devils tried to change personnel. Immediately sensing a chance, Green exploded past the defenders jumping onto the ice and skated alone into the offensive zone. His booming slap shot was stopped by goalie Martin Brodeur -- but it was the kind of electrifying play Green regularly used earlier in his career to terrorize opponents.
A few minutes later his backside feed to Joel Ward led to another quick pass and a goal for teammate Mike Ribeiro. Then a bad clear by the Devils with 2:56 left in the game led to a flick of Green's wrists and a goal that tied the game at 2-2.
There's a long way left to go even in this shortened 48-game season. But Green entered it pain-free finally. He had long ago put aside the concussion symptoms from two years ago, which knocked him out for most of the final two months of the regular season in 2010-11.
And the lockout actually helped him fully recover from last year's hernia surgery. He came back from that in February and appeared in the Stanley Cup playoffs but never fully seemed himself with two goals and three assists in 36 games, including the postseason, after the surgery.
"Probably about a month ago, to be honest," Green said. "No more pain, my mobility was good again. And I had that hop in my step that I didn't have before."
Oates named Green an alternate captain just before the season -- the first time he had been so honored during his eight years in Washington. That trust is further seen in Green's minutes. He is averaging 27:52 of ice time per game, five minutes more than his closest teammate.