Brooks Laich has been hampered by a groin injury since November and six days ago suffered a related injury that the team will describe only as a lower-body problem, but the Capitals aren’t providing much more information on the forward’s health or when he might be able to return.
“He’s seen a lot of people and we’re just trying to figure out any way we can to get him on the ice before we go to other steps,” Coach Adam Oates said. “He’s got a groin problem. They still are having a tough time identifying exactly what it is.”
Laich, 29, is out indefinitely since he suffered a lower-body injury April 4 against the New York Islanders that Oates said is negatively affecting the groin injury. The Capitals forward met with St. Louis-based groin specialist Dr. Michael Brunt on Tuesday and consulted with another specialist Thursday.
“We know what the issue is,” General Manager George McPhee said Friday, declining to comment further on Laich’s status.
Laich missed the first 28 games of the season after suffering a groin injury while playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. He made his season debut with the Capitals on March 19, but in his ninth game back, the additional lower-body injury occurred to sideline him once again. Laich has missed four straight games and isn’t expected to return to the lineup any time soon.
Oates is familiar with the uncertainty stemming from groin injuries and the problems – such as sports hernias, lower-back injuries and torn abdominal muscles — that can stem from them. The Capitals coach tore his groin muscle twice, seven years apart, during his playing career.
“You’re just looking for an answer because you can’t pinpoint what it is. And at first it’s rest and heal and is it a groin? Is it low back?” Oates said. “There’s just so much stress on those areas there, it’s really difficult to find. And obviously you do all the tests and see all the specialists.”
The ambiguity with groin injuries and their underlying causes can make it even more difficult for a player and team to determine the correct course of action in a rehabilitation process.
“Brooks is dying. He wants to be a part of this. And we need him,” Oates said. “So obviously we want to make it as short as possible. It goes to show you how difficult the trauma is because it’s been all year they’ve been trying figure it out.”
Last season, Mike Green missed 41 games with a nagging groin injury that resulted in an abdominal tear and eventually required sports hernia surgery. For the first portion of Green’s absence with the injury, he tried several non-invasive routes from traditional physical therapy methods to electrical stimulation but was never able to recover fully and surgery became necessary.
“I talked to him early on in the year, the sound of it, it’s one of those things – the same thing I had – where it wasn’t able to be rehabbed to 100 percent,” Green said. “At some point you just gotta make a decision. It’s unfortunate that he’s going through what he’s going through right now. He’s strong mentally, mental guy that will come out of this great. He works hard and he’ll be fine.”
Green, 27, underwent sports hernia surgery on Jan. 17, 2012 and was able to return to Washington’s lineup a month later on Feb. 18, 2012. The Capitals’ top defenseman admitted that accepting the need for surgery was difficult at the time but realizes now that he’s is much better off for going through with the procedure.
“I beat myself up about it and that’s never good either, especially when you’re not playing for your team and you’re going into playoffs and whatnot,” Green said. “If I would have tried to battle through that then it could have been years. I’ve talked to him about it, the progress and success I’ve had with mine over the course of two months, three months after I had mine. He’s going to go through the same thing but it’s night and day when you come out of there with it feeling like that – or fixed at least.”
Before returning to the Capitals’ lineup, Laich said the rehabilitation from the groin injury was the most difficult challenge he’s faced in his NHL career. Green has told Laich about the positive impact surgery had on his health, but the defenseman doesn’t know how his teammate will approach this decision.
“You know Brooks, he’s hard-headed. I gave him my info but who knows how he takes it. He’s got one vision and that’s in his own head,” Green said.“He’s got to believe that we’re going to do our job to make sure we make a run here and as long as he does his job he’ll be back and we’ll still be playing hockey when he’s back.”