Brooks Laich almost couldnt wait for the question to be asked.
With two-time Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green still sidelined with a sprained right ankle, are the Capitals better able to play without him now that Dennis Wideman is healthy and in the lineup?
Mikes a fantastic player and we miss him, Laich said as the Capitals prepared for Friday nights game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, their fourth straight without Green.
Its just more minutes for Dennis Wideman, who may be playing the best hockey Ive ever seen him play. Youre never going to replace Greenie, but by committee we can do it.
Wideman, 28, never really had a chance to show the Capitals what they were getting when they acquired him from the Florida Panthers before last seasons trade deadline for forward Jake Hauswirth and a third-round draft pick.
He was involved in a knee-to-thigh collision with Carolinas Tuomo Ruutu on March 29 and was diagnosed with a right leg hematoma and compartment syndrome that required surgery to drain the blood from the injured area. He was hospitalized for more than a week after the injury and did not return to the Capitals lineup in the playoffs.
Through 10 games this season, Wideman ranks seventh among all NHL defensemen with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) and has recorded at least a point in nine of the Capitals 10 games. Hes also tied for fourth with a plus-7 rating. Those are all numbers normally attached to Green.
Other than maybe speed, theyre very similar players, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. Theyre very offensive thinking and they can think quick, both of them. They can make that first outlet pass very well because they see the ice in front of them very well.
With todays game predicated on teams ability to break out of their own end with speed Widemans vision and pinpoint passing have allowed the Capitals to transition from defense to offense with the flick of his wrists.
Hes very confident with the puck, Laich said. He makes a lot of plays into the middle of the ice. A lot of defensemen will take the safe play and throw it off the wall, but his head is always up and he makes confident sharp passes up the middle of the ice and that allows us to transition out of our zone rather than getting stuck in scrums on the wall.
Wideman said hes more willing to make plays up the middle of the ice when hes out there with talented centers like Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Laich.
With the amount of skill we have up the middle there is more of a trust factor to make the play even when theres someone around them, Wideman said. If there was less skill Id be putting it off the wall more.
If there is an area Green is sorely missed its on the power play. In the first three games without Green, the Caps went 1-for-11 on the man-advantage. On Friday they are expected to move Alex Ovechkin in front of the net, where they are hoping he can convert rebounds and deflections into power play goals.
Laich said having Wideman teeing off from the point should help.
Its almost like a shortstop who knows what hes going to do with the ball before he gets it, Laich said. Its the same thing with Dennis and Mike. When the puck is coming to them they already have their head up and theyre ready to shoot.
Wideman said his recovery from last seasons injury is a work in progress that requires daily maintenance and strength training. He said his right leg is not quite as strong as his left, but hes working on it.
My right leg is like Hammers, Wideman joked, referring to the 37-year-old wheels of teammate Roman Hamrlik.