Midway through the Capitals’ practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday, Mike Green stepped onto the ice in warmups and a baseball cap.
He twirled around a few times, flipped a puck or two into an empty net and returned to the bench to watch the rest of the practice.
What does that mean for the Caps’ top defenseman, who sat out Sunday’s game against the Rangers with a lower body injury?
“He’s feeling better,” Caps coch Adam Oates said. “He just wanted to touch the ice and he’s going to probably practice with us [Wednesday].”
Green leads all Capitals in average ice time [26:33] and is puck-moving ability was sorely missed against the Rangers as rookie Tomas Kundratek replaced him on a top pairing with Karl Alzner.
While Green made a cameo appearance with the Caps on Tuesday, forwards Marcus Johansson [upper body] and Brooks Laich [lower body] did not. Laich has not skated for the past three days but Oates said that did not represent a setback for the 29-year-old forward, who has not yet played a game this season.
Oates said Johansson would skate on his own on Wednesday but it appears unlikely either forward will be cleared to play before next week at the earliest.
Meanwhile, defenseman Jack Hillen skated with the team but refrained from contact. Hillen injured his shoulder in the first game of the season and is expected to be sidelined another 4-6 weeks.
Despite the loss in New York on Sunday Oates kept his forward line combinations and defense pairings the same on Tuesday:
Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin
Wojtek Wolksi - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Eric Fehr - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb
Karl Alzner - Tomas Kundratek
John Erskine - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Tom Poti
If Green is cleared to play on Thursday against the Devils look for him to replace Tom Poti [minus-5] in the lineup. Braden Holtby [4-5-0, 3.68 GAA, .888] figures to get the start on Thursday against the Devils.
Too many men: One of the biggest areas of concern for Adam Oates over the first 15 games has been the number of minor penalties his team has taken. On Sunday against the Rangers the Caps went to the box five times and it eventually cost them when Derek Stepan scored the game-winner in the third period.
The Caps were called for having too many men on the ice in the first period of that loss and although it was just the second time this season the Caps have been guilty of that infraction, Oates said it’s one that can’t happen.
“That’s something that’s very frustrating for a coach,” he said. “There are probably times it’s my fault when I switch the line and I change my mind late. But when it’s not, it’s on the players.
“You really only have to watch one guy. You gotta watch your player. And if you take your eyes off him shame on you. And that’s a focus thing.”