Ovechkin struggles to find a groove with new line mates
On the one hand, Mike Green is grateful that when he skates in the Capitals’ home opener Tuesday, he will do so in his 400th career NHL game.
“Absolutely,” you take pride in a milestone of this kind Green says. “Not that many guys can say that they've done that so I'm honored to be able to play my 400th game.”
On the other hand, part of Green wishes the feat could have been reached much sooner. Injuries and a work stoppage have limited the 27-year-old to just 41 regular-season games over the last two calendar years (Jan. 22, 2011-2013).
Consider that from the time he played his first NHL game on Oct. 12, 2005, it took Green 742 days before he reached his 100th game. It then took 435 days to play games 101-200, and 426 days to play games 201-300. It has since taken 1,056 days to play games 301-400.
“Would I have liked to play more the past [two] years? Yeah, absolutely,” Green says. “But now I finally feel 100 percent. It feels good to be able to skate and have no worries and have the comfort and confidence that you know your 100 percent and that your body is stable. It feels great.”
Green said in the days leading up to training camp that he finally started to feel completely healthy around mid-December. The 27-year-old underwent sports hernia surgery and has missed time in recent years with groin and ankle injuries and a concussion.
But with Green back to full strength, and the need for a puck moving defensemen to fill the void left by Dennis Wideman’s offseason departure, Green will be given every opportunity to reclaim the form that made him a Norris Trophy finalist in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
“I think Greenie, in watching him in the past, is an elite defenseman in this league,” head coach Adam Oates says. “And I’ve told him that. I really believe that. And we’re going to expect that from him.
Green is the second player from the Caps’ 2004 draft class to reach the 400-game plateau, with first overall pick Alex Ovechkin donning the Caps’ sweater Tuesday for the 555th time in his NHL career.
This marks the first time in Capitals history that multiple first-round picks from the same draft class will have played at least 400 games with the team. Defenseman Jeff Schultz (first-round, 27th overall) could soon join them, having played 374 games with the Caps himself.