Caps' Green feels 'great' after return

Caps' Green feels 'great' after return
April 14, 2011, 6:13 pm
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Thursday, April 14, 2011, 2:30 p.m.


By Ryan OHalloran

If any doubt lingered that Mike Green was overextended in his return to the Capitals lineup, it was erased a little before 11 a.m. Thursday.

Twelve hours after he logged 26 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time in the Capitals Game 1 overtime win over the Rangers, Green was one of 15 players who participated in an optional practice.

Green looked no worse for the wear after playing for the first time since missing 26 of the last 28 games because of a concussion.

I feel great, No. 52 said after the workout. Its comforting to know I can jump back in and be able to feel the way I did.

Comforting for the entire Capitals organization, too. After surviving without their best offensive blue-liner, they hoped Green would return to form quickly and werent disappointed.

Green assisted on Alex Ovechkins game-tying goal and finished with four shots on goal and four blocked shots.

I wasnt surprised, John Carlson said. He certainly had a great game. Its nice to have him back, but more importantly its nice for our team to have him back. You cant replace him.

Agreed Karl Alzner: Its reassuring. There were a lot of times last night he got the puck in the neutral zone and he doesnt have a play so he circles back, waits a couple seconds and then makes a great play.

Carlson and Alzner in particular will benefit from Greens return. The two youngsters were logging major minutes as the top pairing, including special teams. Now Green is back.

Its like adding a player at the trade deadline, Mike Knuble said.

Coach Bruce Boudreau paired Green with John Erskine to start the game and in the first period, Greens 6:37 was second among Capitals defensemen and included a spot on the power play.

I thought his first period was about as good as hes played in a playoff game, Boudreau said.

By the end of the second period, though, Greens 14:53 led the defense and his final total trailed only Scott Hannan and Jeff Schultz.

I was hoping to ease into things and maybe play fewer minutes, Green joked. But its the playoffs.

Green acknowledged playing so much in Game 1 could accelerate his progress.

Maybe if I wasnt playing much, I wouldnt have felt as comfortable because I know when you dont play, its hard to get into a rhythm, he said. Maybe it was beneficial to me.

Said Hannan: Hes going to get better every game. I thought he had a great game last night, the way he moved the puck.

What also benefitted Green is that Boudreau and assistant Bob Woods stuck to their six-man defensive rotation in overtime. The playing time ranged from 19:18 (Erskine) to 28:39 (Hannan). Compare that to the Rangers rotation, which ranged from 16:22 (Matt Gilroy) to 32:50 and 33:48 for Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, respectively.

Every guy can play in every rotation and you need that over a series and a playoff run, said Hannan, a veteran of 74 playoff games.

Green, Hannan and Co. were part of an effort that limited New York to 25 shots on goal and combined to block 24 of the Capitals 32 shots (the most in a Boudreau-coached Capitals playoff game).

We havent always played like this and the adjustments weve made as a group have been great, Green said. In the past, we havent played a strong defensive game and I dont think its just been the defensemen, its been collective.

We played a patient game. We had a lot of chances in the first and second periods and didnt capitalize. But we didnt get down. We stuck with our system and stuck with our game plan.

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