The Capitals are on the ice for the morning skate here at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and for the first time this season, forward Brooks Laich out there with them.
Laich, 29, has yet to play a game this season because of a groin muscle injury that he originally suffered while playing in Switzerland during the lockout.
After taking part in the skate, Laich said he expects to practice with the team consistently moving forward and that he should be able to take contact.
“The more I can get on the ice with the guys, the quicker it’ll be,” Laich said. “As far as a timeline I can’t really tell you. I don’t have an exact date. But getting closer and closer every day.”
Coach Adam Oates also stressed patience when asked about about when Laich might be ready to return to the lineup. Laich is often defiant when faced with injuries, determined not to miss much time but Oates said he and the rest of the Capitals staff know they have to make sure he doesn’t rush back.
“He wants to play tonight, I’m sure. But we’ve got to be careful about it; we can’t set him back,” Oates said. “No real time line. He needs to probably, definitely, get a couple skates in and we can all now sit together and talk and [he can] get at the pace of the game.”
Laich said he’s been skating daily over the past two and a half weeks and while it’s tough to gauge the forward’s progress at this point he wasn’t making any hard stops or cuts — one of the biggest challenges for players coming back from groin injuries — Thursday morning.
Based on the line rushes they ran during the morning skate, the Capitals look to be sticking with the same forward combinations for a fourth straight contest. Michal Neuvirth gets the nod in net once again and will make his fifth consecutive start.
Here’s what the lineup should look like against the Maple Leafs:
Goal: Neuvirth, Holtby
Scratches: Mathieu Perreault, Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti.