The Capitals may be just a few days from realizing how different they are with Mike Green in the lineup.
On Tuesday the 26-year-old defenseman participated in his first practice since undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia on Jan. 17. And although it was an optional practice with very little hitting, Green walked off the ice with a smile that lit up an otherwise gray locker room.
Today was a great judging point for me to see where Im at, and I feel good, Green said after his second straight day of more than an hour of skating. Its just a matter of me getting myself back into (game) shape. Today I have a smile on my face. I havent felt like this in a long time.
Green said he would like to join the Capitals on their four-game road trip, which begins Friday night against the Florida Panthers and continues Saturday night in Tampa, Monday night at Carolina and Wednesday night at Ottawa.
Its not my decision right now, he said. Were going step-by-step and I have to get cleared. I know Ive been out for a long time but its important that I come back when Im ready. I definitely do not want to have another setback; that would kill me. Were in a good place right now and well see about the weekend.
Green has not played since Jan. 7 in San Jose when he pulled himself out of the game with groin pain. A subsequent MRI revealed a small tear in his abdominal wall, which was repaired during the surgery in St. Louis.
I couldnt stride before (the surgery), Green said . My leg was dead. That was the most frustrating part about it. Not only that it was painful -- you can play with pain -- but when you dont have the movement and strength youre used to its frustrating. I have all of that right now and it feels good.
Green said he was a little skeptical about whether the surgery would alleviate his problems but was reassured by several players who made full recoveries from similar procedures.
Honestly, I didnt know where Id be after this surgery, whether it would be better or not. Its amazing how its worked. Im impressed.
The Capitals are 9-1-0 in the 10 games Green has played this season and 19-23-4 without him.