BLUE JACKETS (10-15-2) at CAPITALS (13-10-4)
TV: FS-O, CSN-DC
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green will return Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets after missing seven games with an upper-body injury.
Green sustained the injury Nov. 22 against the Buffalo Sabres. He confirmed earlier this week that it was a separate upper-body issue than the one that kept him out of Washington's season opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 9.
The possibility existed Green may have been able to play Tuesday in the Capitals' 5-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He ultimately stayed behind, a decision made to prolong his return.
"I think that it was necessary," Green said. "We talked about the long-term instead of getting back quick and maybe potentially being out again, coming back too soon. I think it was a smart decision. I felt great today and I’m ready to go."
Green, who has 12 points in 19 games this season, will return to his place on Washington's third defensive pairing with partner Nate Schmidt. The 29-year-old has been deployed in less demanding assignments, starting 38.7 percent of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone, the most since at least 2007-08, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. He leads the Capitals with a 58.9 Fenwick percentage, which also ranks fifth among NHL defensemen with at least 200 minutes played.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz intends to ease Green back into action, holding him to around 16, 17 minutes instead of his usual 20. The defensive stability provided by the offseason additions of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen will allow Trotz to better monitor Green's minutes, though he won't hesitate to play him more.
"Mike's such a pure skater and such a gifted athlete that if he's going well in the games in the right type of flow, he can handle 20 minutes if needed," Trotz said.
The Blue Jackets have won four straight games as they attempt to climb back into contention in the Metropolitan Division.
Ravaged by injuries this season, Columbus is getting healthier; forward Brandon Dubinsky made his season debut Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers, earning an assist in Columbus' 3-2 overtime victory.
"They're on a run right now," Trotz said. "They've got people back and they're a deep team. We've got our hands full tonight."
Here are the projected lineups:
Boone Jenner – Ryan Johansen – Jack Skille
Matt Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell – Nick Foligno – Brian Gibbons
Corey Tropp – Michael Chaput – Jared Boll
Jordan Leopold – Dalton Prout
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Kevin Connauton – James Wisniewski
Scratched: Adam Cracknell, Tim Erixon
Injured: Artem Anisimov (triceps), Mark Letestu (groin, abdomen), Ryan Murray (knee), Fedor Tyutin (knee)
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Jason Chimera – Michael Latta – Jay Beagle
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
Scratched: Andre Burakovsky, Jack Hillen
Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Status report: The Blue Jackets activated defenseman Cody Goloubef from injured reserve and loaned him to the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment Wednesday. He hasn't played for Columbus since sustaining a knee injury Nov. 1. … Tyutin participated in Columbus' morning skate. He won't play Thursday, but is nearing a return from a knee injury. … The Capitals assigned forward Aaron Volpatti, who has yet to play this season with an upper-body injury, to the Hershey Bears on a long-term injury/illness exception conditioning loan Thursday.
Who's hot: Jenner has scored a goal in each of his past four games. … Laich has goals in three of his past four games.