Tom Poti could return in Caps season opener Saturday

January 18, 2013
(Glen Gray/Associated Press)
(Glen Gray/Associated Press)

After a two-game conditioning stint with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Tom Poti rejoined the Capitals on Thursday night and it’s possible the veteran defenseman will be in the lineup for Saturday’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“He might be able to play,” General Manager George McPhee said. “He should know the system, he just played it for a couple of games and [the Bears] do the same things there that we are here. He’s here [Thursday night] going over video with the coaches.”

Poti, 35, is “real confident” he will be ready to return to NHL action Saturday barring a setback. If he does face the Lightning, Poti will be making his comeback in the same city where he last played an NHL game on Jan. 12, 2011, before he was sidelined for two years by lingering groin problems and a fractured pelvis.

During his time in Hershey, Poti continued to be pain free. His timing is a little off, but that’s to be expected considering the extended period of time he went between playing actual games.

Poti also took contact for the first time during his recovery process while in Hershey and had no ill effects.

“I took a few hits, and you know, there was no – it didn’t affect me at all, so I kind of crossed that hurdle a little bit,” Poti said. “Obviously, I haven’t taken any huge hits, but you never know. You try to avoid those in the game anyway.”

The biggest question now is whether Poti can stay healthy for the bulk of the season, and there’s no way to answer that one. For as long as Poti is able to contribute, though, the Capitals should be better for it.

“If he’s healthy, he can help us. He’s a good player. It makes our team better, I think, if he’s ready to go,” McPhee said. “We’ve just got our fingers crossed that this lasts more than two days or three days or two weeks. Hope he doesn’t go down two weeks from now.

Poti’s addition makes finalizing the 23-man roster ahead of Friday’s 3 p.m. 5 p.m. deadline a bit tougher, McPhee acknowledged.

As things stand, the Capitals have 13 healthy forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders. But that list doesn’t include Brooks Laich, who is sidelined by an apparent groin injury. It’s unclear whether the Capitals plan to place Laich on injured reserve or suspend him without pay, as they are permitted to do because he originally suffered the injury while playing in Switzerland during the lockout.

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