Capitals defenseman Mike Green left Wednesday’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex after just 10 minutes, but coach Adam Oates is not completely ruling him out of Thursday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center [6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN].
“He felt pretty good,” Oates said. “We’re going to evaluate him [Thursday]. He didn’t want to do too much. We’ll see how he is in the morning. He felt pretty good. He just didn’t want to be explosive, but he felt fine with everything else.”
Green sat out Sunday’s game with a lower body injury. Oates made it clear that since Green was forced to miss much of last season with a groin injury that led to sports hernia surgery, the team is being careful about rushing him back into the lineup.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Oates said, “and we have to be very cautious. We definitely don’t want to set him back.”
Green, 27, leads all Caps defensemen in points , plus-minus [plus-3] and average ice time [26:33] and said he was skating as well as he had in years before the injury, which appeared to occur late in Thursday night’s win in Tampa.
“He’s one of those special players,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said, “and when we don’t have that it’s easier to play against us.”
If Green cannot play against the Devils Oates will count on rookie defenseman Tomas Kundratek to play on the Capitals’ top defense pairing alongside Karl Alzner. Through 14 games Kundratek has no goals, four assists and is tied with Marcus Johansson with a plus-minus rating of minus-7.
Kundratek, 23, is 13:50 in ice time this season but saw that number peak to 23:25 in Green’s absence in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers in MadisonSquareGarden.
“He’s great,” Alzner said of Kundratek, who was acquired from the Rangers last season for Francois Bouchard.
“Just from watching him so far this season, I ask myself, ‘Why can’t I make those plays?’ He’s really calm with the puck. He makes skill plays when he has to. He makes pass plays to the middle, which I always thought only came with time and experience, but it must come with skill and his skill is pretty amazing.”
In other injury news, Caps forward Marcus Johansson [upper body] skated on his own before practice and will be evaluated on Thursday. Brooks Laich went through off-ice strengthening for the fourth straight day and is unlikely to play in the Caps’ upcoming stretch in which they face the Devils on Thursday and Saturday, the Hurricanes on Tuesday and the Flyers on Wednesday.
If Green cannot play, look for the Capitals’ lineup to look like this Thursday night:
Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin
Wojtek Wolski - 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
Holtby gets the call: Oates said Braden Holtby will get his fifth straight start on Thursday. In one career start against the Devils, Holtby is 0-1 with a 5.06 GAA and .783 save percentage.
Extra protection: One week after Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson learned he would be sidelined the remainder of the season with a severed Achilles tendon, suffered when the back of his foot was cut by a skate blade, several Capitals tried wearing new Kevlar socks at practice on Thursday at the suggestion of general manager George McPhee.
“I can’t believe everyone doesn’t wear them, just because you’re so exposed to it,” Caps winger Jay Beagle said. “You know how many guys get cut behind their legs?”
Beagle said he was so anxious to see the effectiveness of the new socks that he tried cutting the material with a utility knife and scissors, without much success.