Capitals defenseman Mike Green sat out the final 20 games of the 2010-11 regular season with a concussion, so he understands as well as anyone the dangers of returning to the lineup too early.
Yet there he was on Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, participating in his first full practice since getting his “bell rung” Thursday night in Columbus.
“I felt better than I thought I would,” Green said. “It’s weird with head injuries. One day you wake up and you feel a lot better than the last. That was the case this morning.”
Green sat out Friday night’s 4-3 shootout loss in Detroit and said he wants to see how he feels after participating in a full practice before making a decision on Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. rematch against the Red Wings at VerizonCenter.
“It’s one of those things, you get your bell rung,” Green said. “Obviously, I’ve been down this path before, so I know the symptoms. I’m just making sure we’re doing the right thing here.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates said Green was held out of Friday night’s game as a precaution. He said he thinks the NHL’s concussion protocol is a “great step” to protect players from returning to the ice before they are ready, but he also wonders why there has been such a spike in concussions.
“It’s a slippery slope,” he said. “I played a long time [19 years] and I never saw some of the reactions guys get nowadays,” Oates said.
Green suffered his injury when he was checked hard into the glass by Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner.
“It was just a footrace,” Green recalled. “I tried to get a stick on the puck and the other guy bumped me and kind of put me off balance and I went into the boards and he finished his check on me.
“I hit my head pretty hard on the glass. It was an unfortunate situation. No issues [with the hit]. He finished his check like he should, just bad luck for me.”
Green tried skating a few minutes after taking the hit but decided it was best that he sit out the rest of Thursday night’s game as well as Friday’s game in Detroit. If Green cannot play, Tyson Strachan will take his spot alongside defense partner Dmitry Orlov.
“If you’ve ever had a concussion you know what it feels like,” Green said. “You almost put yourself at risk going back out there if you’re not able to have the reaction time you need.
“Obviously, another bump to the head wouldn’t be good. I think the protocol they’ve implemented has really helped the players understand what to look for and how to react. I’d rather miss a couple games than half the season.”
Oates wonders if the introduction of contact at a younger age has contributed to an increase in head injuries in hockey.
“Is it because kids are getting hit harder?” Oates said. “My nephew plays and they wear full cages at a young age and we didn’t. We learned to avoid contact and now they’re taking contact at a really early age, which they shouldn’t.”
Injury update: Center Brooks Laich [groin tightness] took just two shifts in the third period Friday night and did not practice on Saturday. Oates called it a maintenance day for Laich and the team will decide on Sunday if he can play against the Red Wings. Center Mikhail Grabovski [left foot/ankle] skated on his own before practice but Oates said he’s “a ways away” from playing.