Mike Green among Capitals defensemen aiming to return
One day after playing without half of his defense corps, Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau hopes to have Mike Green, John Erskine and Brian Pothier back in the lineup for Saturday's home game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Green, the team's leader in ice time and the league leader in points among defensemen, returned to practice after sitting out Thursday's game in Pittsburgh because of an undisclosed injury.
Although the defenseman said he was limited, he still hopes to face the Coyotes, who have won three of their past four games and sit in fourth place in the Western Conference.
"It's better," Green said. "It's one of those things if [I] was out there I wouldn't have been very useful. So I took a couple of days off to get treatment. I plan on playing. But we'll see how I feel when wake up."
Green won't say what's ailing him or when the injury occurred. He blocked a shot during the second period of Tuesday's victory over the Detroit Red Wings and was struck on the left hand or wrist. Television replays showed Green on the bench in obvious pain.
Pothier and Erskine also participated fully in the optional session at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and are aiming to return as well. Pothier suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot five games ago in Florida; Erskine hasn't played since Jan. 9 because of an upper body injury.
"They're both in the same position as Mike," Boudreau said. "I think by game time tomorrow we'll have eight healthy defensemen to choose from."
Carlson sent down
With three veterans close to rejoining the team, John Carlson was reassigned to the minor league Hershey Bears after arguably his best effort. The rookie skated a career-high 17 minutes 43 seconds and notched his first NHL point with a secondary assist on Tomas Fleischmann's breakaway goal.
On his most recent three-game recall, Carlson posted a combined plus-minus rating of plus-6, the best rating of any Capitals defenseman during that span.
"Good things happen when he's on the ice," Boudreau said. "He makes a steady play most of the time, and he competes hard. He's going to be an NHL player for a long time. But, right now, when you've got eight healthy defensemen, he's got the be the guy who takes the back seat, just as Karl [Alzner] did for a year. It didn't hurt Karl's development, and it's not going to hurt John."
Varlamov still ailing
The injury news wasn't so encouraging regarding Semyon Varlamov, who has been sidelined since Dec. 7 because of groin muscle and knee strains. The oft-injured goalie did not skate for the seventh straight day.
"The only answer I can give you is he's feeling a lot better," Boudreau said. "He wants to take a couple of days off, so when we start on Monday he's ready to go and he feels he'll be ready to practice."
Boudreau confirmed that the trouble is not his groin muscle, but rather the sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
"Everybody knows their body," Boudreau said. "When you're a goaltender, I don't know how those knee joints work but they almost go sideways when you're going down, so he'll know when he's ready."
In the meantime, Varlamov has been working off ice with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish and receiving daily treatment on his knee.
With four games this week, a number of the team's big-minute players -- including Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom -- opted not to practice. Boudreau said all the absentees are healthy and simply needed the rest. . . .
Thursday's contest garnered a 3.3 household rating on Comcast SportsNet, a network record for a regular season Capitals game, according to Comcast. . . .
In 21 games with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, Michael Nylander has two goals, 15 assists, a plus-minus rating of minus-5 and leads the Griffins with .81 points per game.