Back in July, after agreeing to a three-year, $18.25 million contract extension with the Capitals, defenseman Mike Green predicted he would return to his All-Star level days of years past, when he produced 70 or more points in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
“A hundred percent,” he said in a conference call with reporters, “and it’ll be next year.”
Next year is here and after five games, the real Mike Green appears to have arrived.
Entering tonight’s game against the Senators in Ottawa, Green owns one goal and two assists and is averaging a whopping 27 minutes, 52 seconds of ice time a game.
That ranks third in the NHL behind Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty [29:10] and Toronto Maple Leafs blue liner Dion Phaneuf [27:56].
“He’s our man,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said.
Green’s ice time is significant when you consider the year he had last season, when sports hernia surgery limited him to 32 games. In those game Green managed just three goals and four assists while averaging 21:02 of ice time.
He said the lockout may have been a blessing in disguise, allowing him ample time to recover from his sports hernia surgery.
“A big part of my game is skating and I’m finally strong enough to skate again,” he said. “I wasn’t right for about a year and I feel like I’m completely fine and the more minutes I play the better I feel.”
Green said Oates has checked with him to be sure he’s capable of handling the heavy minutes, much of which have been spent alongside new defense partner Karl Alzner.
That pairing is expected to remain in tact tonight, along with the second pair of John Carlson with John Erskine and a fourth pairing of Tomas Kundratek and Jeff Schultz.
Oates said he’s been happy with his starting six on the blue line, which means another seat in the press box tonight for veterans Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti.
“[Kundratek] knows the system and I think he’s done a great job in the couple games he’s played,” Oates said. “John came in and scored a big goal for us [against Buffalo on Sunday].
“A couple years ago Schultz was a dominant defenseman in this league and we’re going to need that.”
Poti, who sat out all of last season with a fractured pelvis, said his body recovered well from playing in the first three games of the season.
“I thought I played well,” he said. “I’m just sitting waiting for my turn and I’m OK with that.”
Brooks Laich update: Sidelined since training camp with a lower body injury, Laich is expected to join the Caps in Ottawa Tuesday night and resume skating on Thursday. The Senators are expected to be without center Jason Spezza, but are expected to have right wing Daniel Alfredsson after he missed one game with flu symptoms.