The Capitals were thrilled when defenseman Mike Green returned from sports hernia surgery last month, finally putting a year's worth of health woes behind him. But it is never that easy. Green is back on the ice, but that's different than being back to the 70-point player the team needs.
Green won't admit to being limited physically. But it's clear his timing is off. In 10 games, Green has yet to record a point and is a minus-2. He has a legitimate excuse after appearing in just three games between Oct. 22 and Feb. 18.
"I'm just happy that I can play without any pain or whatnot," said Green, who also missed most of the final two months of 2011-12 with a pair of concussions before returning for the playoffs. "As far as getting my feel back, it's taken a lot longer. I didn't play there for however many months. Sometimes you can lose a step or whatnot or your feel for the game, and it's taken me some time to kind of get back into it."
Both Green and coach Dale Hunter insist the coaches' 1-2-2 defensive system is just a minor adjustment. Hockey is hockey, after all, and it will take time to rebuild his game. Unfortunately, the Caps don't have much left this season.
"Right now I feel like I'm kind of like a robot," Green said. "I'm in position when really the mental part of the game where it just flows and you create and you see things before they even happen -- that's the part of the game that I think has kind of taken a step back. But hopefully it peaks soon."
- Brian McNally