Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing as Green strug­gles to find of­fense

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY STEPHENWHYNO

Nicklas Back­strom is the big­gest miss­ing piece for the Washington Cap­i­tals. Their chances of mak­ing the play­offs have eroded as the of­fense that runs through the cen­ter has hit a dam in his ab­sence.

But de­fense­man Mike Green’s re­turn to the lineup last month was sup­posed to spark some­thing, given his abil­ity to pro­vide scor­ing from the back end. In­stead, Green’s first nine games back from sports her­nia surgery have been a painful ad­just­ment back into play­ing shape.

“I’m just happy that I can play with­out any pain or what­not. As far as get­ting my feel back, it’s taken a lot longer,” Green said Wed­nes­day. “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.”

Green, whose last game be­fore an an­kle in­jury in Oc­to­ber in­cluded two goals and two as­sists, hasn’t got­ten on the score­sheet in a pos­i­tive way since. Since com­ing back from his groin in­jury, he has zero points and a mi­nus-3 rat­ing.

That’s not the kind of play that’s ex­pected, but it’s likely be­cause Green isn’t fully feel­ing like him­self from a men­tal stand­point. TAMPA BAY AT CAP­I­TALS To­day: TV: Ra­dio:

“Right now, I feel like I’m kind of like a ro­bot,” he said. “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.”

Much like Den­nis Wide­man and John Carl­son, Green is an of­fen­sive­minded de­fense­man who has a ten­dency to make mis­takes at the other end. Scor­ing goals, or at least con­tribut­ing to them, is key to mak­ing up for that.

Coach Dale Hunter thinks the pro­duc­tion is com­ing soon.

“Be­cause he hasn’t got it, you’re go­ing to push a lit­tle harder than you could and it’s cre­at­ing de­fen­sive lapses,” Hunter said. “So he just has to go out and play his game, and when it’s there jump up and make good plays.”

Green was par­tially to blame on the Carolina Hur­ri­canes’ sec­ond goal in Tues­day’s 4-3 over­time loss, when he was slow to get back and de­fend his man. That’s one prob­lem Hunter pointed to that Green is work­ing through.

“Get­ting the tim­ing on the rush,” the coach said. “The gap’s too big some­times, he doesn’t know the feel for it.”

Put some of that on Green not hav­ing a feel for this new sys­tem, ei­ther. He played a cou­ple of games in early Jan­uary when try­ing to fight through his groin prob­lem but has had to ad­just on the fly since com­ing back full time Jan. 18.

Green was used to for­mer coach Bruce Boudreau’s sys­tem, in­stilled over a pe­riod of years.

“When you have a dif­fer­ent game plan, dif­fer­ent sys­tem and struc­ture, ob­vi­ously things change,” he said. “Guys aren’t in the same spots as they used to be. . . . But we need to find that and click, and we need to do it quick.”

Hunter has shown Green video but sug­gested that it’s not as much fit­ting into the sys­tem as it is re­gain­ing his form. That should come with more games.

“The sys­tem’s not much dif­fer­ent than Pitts­burgh’s or Bos­ton’s. I think it’s more tim­ing,” Hunter said. “But he’s a big part of this team, and we need him, and he’s a char­ac­ter guy that wants to win. So that’s why he’s hard on him­self. He wants to win.”

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