Caps will need group effort to make up for Brooks Laich’s absence

January 15, 2013
(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Brooks Laich was out for another solo skate Tuesday morning prior to the Capitals’ scrimmage against their ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals. He’s not one to readily accept missing time for any reason, but barring a sudden change, it appears the utility forward won’t be ready for the start of the season Saturday because of an apparent groin injury.

Laich hasn’t missed a game since March 30, 2010. Making up for his absence will require a joint effort from numerous players on the roster.

Last season, Laich was the only player to average more than two minutes per game on both the power play (2:11) and penalty kill (2:28). He plays any and every role, from blocking shots to helping shut down an opponent’s top line  to crashing the net. There is no one player who can be tasked with becoming the team’s next Swiss Army knife.

“I would say it’s impossible to fill Brooks Laich’s shoes,” Matt Hendricks said. “The amount of minutes that he plays, the versatility he has, his leadership skills in the room, his work ethic. Those things are hard to replace, if not impossible to replace. We’re going to do our best to fill his roles.”

Newcomer Wojtek Wolski, who lined up as second-line left wing, Laich’s usual spot, through the first three days of training camp, is looking to reassert himself as a legitimate NHL scoring threat. Players such as Hendricks and Jay Beagle are likely to see more time on the penalty kill with Laich sidelined.

It might not be the ideal situation, but it creates a multitude of opportunities for other players to show they’re ready for a more significant role within Coach Adam Oates’s framework.

“It adds [responsibilities] for a lot of guys because Brooks is an important part of our team, plays a lot,” Oates said. “So those minutes are now available for other guys and they’ve got to step up and do it.”

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Katie Carrera · January 15, 2013

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