As Brooks Laich buzzed around the ice surface Tuesday morning at KCI it was tough to tell that just two days earlier he suffered a left knee injury that prevented him from finishing a game.
Laich said after the skate that he felt good on the ice and although he hopes to play in the Capitals’ matchup against the Florida Panthers the forward wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee he will be in the lineup tonight. Coach Dale Hunter was equally cautious, saying that the decision largely depends on how Laich feels closer to game time.
So while there’s reason to believe Laich will suit up to face the Panthers, it’s too early to tell for certain.
“I felt good on the ice. Turning, pivoting, everything felt pretty good,” Laich said. “Usually the decision isn’t up to the player, it’s whether the coaching staff [allows it]. You’ve got to try and convince them sometimes. Hopefully, we’ll see tonight.”
Laich said he didn’t want to go to the doctor on Monday, that he would have rather participated in practice. Laich called the outcome of the evaluation “very positive” without going into details of the injury, but the forward made it sound as though he couldn’t worsen the injury by playing.
“I don’t think so,” Laich said when asked if he could hurt himself further by playing. “It felt good out there this morning. I know the position we’re in but I also understand there’s a lot of hockey left in the year. I’m going to try and play if I can. But if I think I’m going to do more damage or anything like that -- that’s what the appointment was for was to rule anything like that out.”
Given Laich’s reputation for playing through minor to mid-range injuries it’s not all that surprising to see the 28-year-old raring to be in the lineup for such an important contest against Florida.
“You know tonight could be the most important game of our year, a team that we have to beat,” Laich said. “Everybody seems to keep winning… It’s a big week for us. Not only tonight’s game, but it’s a big week. I want to be in there for certain.”
That said, the Capitals’ coaching staff and athletic trainers will be cautious for Laich. But if the forward feels strong later this afternoon, don’t be surprised to see Laich in the lineup as though nothing ever happened.
“They know the importance of the game and you’re gonna want to play,” Hunter said. “It’s always how it feels. He skated so now we have to wait and see what it feels like in five, six hours.”
Jay Beagle took part in extra work with the assistant coaches, which is usually reserved for scratches, along with John Erskine and expected back-up goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Hunter said if Laich is unable to play tonight, though, that Beagle will be ready to go despite the additional skating.