Caps (5-10-1, 11 points) vs. New Jersey (10-3-4, 22 points)

Game » 17

When » Saturday, Feb. 23

Where » Verizon Center

TV » Comcast SportsNet HD

Radio » WJFK-FM 106.7; WFED-AM 1500

The Capitals and Devils finish their season series tonight just 17 games into the lockout-shortened schedule. Washington is still stinging after a blown third-period lead on Thursday in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey. This game and Tuesday’s against Southeast Division-leader Carolina loom critical if the Caps hope to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement.

“It almost feels like a mini-playoff series,” defenseman John Carlson said. “Some guys probably tend to get under your skin a little bit more and it works either in your favor or against you. And I think that we got to make sure tonight that it’s working in our favor.”

Carlson played a season-high 30:34 on Thursday and if teammate Mike Green again must sit with a groin injury – he’s missed two games in a row – Carlson will have to deal with another heavy workload.

“Just bury your head and play. There’s not much else you can do,” Carlson said.

Green took part in warm-ups for the second game in a row. He decided at the last minute not to push his luck on Thursday. This would be his third game out of the lineup. That’s a disheartening development for a player whose 2011-12 season was crippled by a groin injury that led to sports hernia surgery. So what will go into the decision if Green plays or not?

“He can’t be almost ready to go, he’s got to feel that he can go play and play 100 percent because I can’t have him go two shifts and then get hurt,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “It’s tough with a groin injury because [in] two more days we could be having the same conversation. How long do they take? Sometimes you’ve got to get back in there and that’s why it’s a tough decision.”

But Green took all three line rushes with defense partner Karl Alzner. That’s an indication he’s at least testing it a little more seriously. He took just one on Thursday. Braden Holtby starts in goal for the Caps. That’s his sixth consecutive start and he’s given Oates no reason to pull him from the lineup. Based on Friday’s practice lines look for a subtle lineup shift today. Eric Fehr has ascended to the second line in place of the struggling Wojtek Wolski.





The defense pairings remain to be seen based on Green’s status.

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