Not easy being Green

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

All those people who won their hockey pools last season because of Mike Green, rest assured he knows.

He spent a good chunk of the summer hearing about it.

"My friends were telling me I'd better do it again," said the Washington Capitals defenceman.

As breakthrough seasons go, the Calgary product had one for the ages in 2007-08. He potted 18 goals and 56 points to help the Capitals go from also-rans to Southeast Division champs.

Now, though, fans want to see what he can do for an encore.

Rest assured, Green wants to prove he's no flash in the pan and has started the season on the right foot, with four goals and two assists in five games heading into tonight's clash with the Calgary Flames.

"I think it was important I get off to a good start because of last year. You don't want to have people saying things about you," he said. "I made it personal for myself, too, to make sure it doesn't happen."

The visiting team's headliner for tonight's affair may be Alexander Ovechkin, but the clash will feature a rarity -- three of the six defenceman on Washington's roster are Calgarians: Green, Jeff Schultz and Tyler Sloan, the 27-year-old who was summoned yesterday from the AHL's Hershey Bears for his NHL debut.

Talk about there being a scrap for tickets.

Green, who came here with the Caps two seasons back, showed some veteran savvy.

"I made sure I got a suite for my family and friends so there was no one left out. You don't want that," he grinned.

"I think we're all taken care of."

While Green knows what it's like to play in your hometown for the first time, it's going to be a new experience for Schultz, the former Calgary Hitmen.

"I can't wait," he said. "It's like my second home playing in the Saddledome," said the 6-foot-6, 221-lb. blueliner. "My first year pro, when the schedule came out, I saw Washington came to Calgary and thought maybe if I had a good training camp there was a chance.

"I was in the minors at that point, so it was kinda disappointing.

"When the schedule came out, it was the first thing I looked at and knew there would be a good chance I'd be playing.

"That was really exciting."

Both Capitals defencemen knows well enough the Flames' top gun, Jarome Iginla, is a handful.

Green's plan of attack is simple.

"Don't let him shoot," he said. "Keep him away from the net. He's one of the best players in the NHL. I know, I've been watching for years and when I wasn't in the league.

"You just can't let him shoot. He's got such a great shot -- it's going to find a way into the net."


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