On Thursday, Coach Bruce Boudreau described Tom Poti as going a little stir crazy these days, and it's an accurate assessment. Poti has played just four games this season because of what is believed to be a groin injury that resulted in him being scratched against Ottawa on Oct. 11. He aggravated the injury when he came back to play two games in mid-October against the Bruins.
"When I hurt it, I didn't think it'd be this long," Poti said. "My stubbornness hurt me a little bit by playing those two Boston games. I should have stayed out a little bit longer and made sure it was strong enough and ready to go, but I just wanted to get out on the ice so bad and play again.
"I felt decent the first game and the second Boston game, it didn't feel good at all. I just had to make the decision with the staff to shut it down for a little while and make sure that it's completely ready the next time I come back."
Poti has missed the five games since that second game against the Bruins on Oct. 21. He returned to the ice this week, gradually increasing his time and involvement in practices with the team. He has dealt with groin problems in each of the past three seasons as well and is trying to make sure there's no doubt about his health when he returns again.
"Last time I came back, I was probably 75 to 80 percent, which is in my estimation pretty good or good enough," Poti said. "But you start off at 75 or 80 percent, and it goes down to 60 and then farther pretty quick, whereas if you wait until you're 100 percent and really strengthen it and make sure it's ready you can stay out for the rest of the time without worrying about getting hurt again."
Tyler Sloan's anticipated return to the lineup tonight means the Capitals have all the other defensemen who started the season available, but Poti's absence is significant. In taking a more methodical approach to recovery, he believes he's making progress.
"It's been encouraging. I've been able to stay out a little longer each time and go a little harder each time," Poti said. "I've been going a lot harder in the weight room and on the bike and stuff like that than I have on the ice because I'm just a little bit scared on the ice to really try to press it. But I'm slowly progressing -- I want to get it ready and get it right."