Brooks Laich didn’t make the trip to Florida will miss the Capitals game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center Saturday and is day-to-day with what the team will only describe as a lower-body injury.
Laich, 29, missed the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury that he originally suffered in November while playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. Asked if Laich aggravated that groin injury, Coach Adam Oates said that the forward was showing sings of fatigue.
“No, he didn’t really aggravate it. Just he’s sore all over, from playing so much since he got back, fighting through it,” Oates said. “I just think we need to give him a little rest.”
Laich has averaged 16 minutes 32 seconds of ice time over nine games since he returned to the lineup on March 19 at Pittsburgh. Asked if there was a way the Capitals could have lightened the forward’s workload to avoid wearing him down or whether this was a result of Laich pushing himself too quickly upon returning, Oates reiterated it was a decision by the coaching and athletic training staff that the utility forward not play.
“He was fine. He probably could play today but he’s getting a little weaker,” Oates said. “I shut him down just because he got hit, he wasn’t feeling good all over so we just shut him down.”
It’s unclear how much time Laich will miss with the injury.
Laich’s absence comes two days after he left Washington’s 2-1 shootout win against the Islanders with an undisclosed injury. After that game, Oates said he noticed Laich laboring on the ice and that the utility forward was “aching all over”. So when head athletic trainer Greg Smith recommended removing Laich from the game, Oates took his advice.
Without Laich in the mix, recently acquired Martin Erat will start on the second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer against Florida.
In net, Braden Holtby is expected to make an 11th consecutive start. While Holtby has stepped up as a No. 1 goaltender this season, Oates said he intends to get Michal Neuvirth some game action down the stretch.
“I still think Neuvy’s got to get games. You want to be a playoff team, you want to get in the playoffs and chances are in the playoffs you’re going to need both guys too,” Oates said. “So as much as yeah, you’re going to go with the hot goalie, you’ve got to be professional about it. We got to be able to play good in front of Neuvy too and he’s got to play good for us. At some point we’ve got to get him some games.”
Based on the morning skate here’s what the lineup should look like tonight:
Goal: Holtby, Neuvirth
Scratches: Laich (lower-body), Jeff Schultz, Aaron Volpatti and Wojtek Wolski.