Brooks Laich a game-time decision against Sabres

January 28

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Brooks Laich took part in the morning skate here but a decision about whether he will play against the Sabres here Tuesday night won’t be made until game time.

After back-to-back games this weekend, Laich said he experienced some soreness and given the lingering groin problems he’s had for two seasons, he opted to not go through the full practice on Monday.

While he participated in all of the drills in the morning skate Tuesday, including line rushes as second line center with Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer on the wings, Laich didn’t appear to really test his stride.

“I’ve really learned I can’t fool myself. If you don’t know, that’s confirmation of knowing,” Laich said. “If you’re unsure, then that’s enough for me to say you’re not ready because when I do feel ready I can look you straight in the eye and say 100 percent I’m going. If it’s not there then you’re in a gray area and you’re treading carefully. It’s really finicky, it’s no fun but you try and make the best of it.”

Coach Adam Oates always admits that in this situation he must defer to the player and trust Laich to offer a fair assessment of his health. But given Laich’s now extensive history with the groin injury, Oates said he sees the veteran forward over-thinking every decision when it comes to his playing status.

“I’m sure he’s hyper-sensitive to what’s going on down there, which is natural for what he’s gone through,” Oates said. “You look at every single game you get hit so many times you don’t realize, faceoffs, you get poked and prodded that maybe it was just something like that that he thinks, ‘Oh no here we go again.’

“He said to me, ‘What if I play tonight and I can’t play Thursday?’ I’m like, ‘Then you can’t play tonight,’ ” Oates said. “I don’t know how you even think like that. He’s obviously over thinking it, hopefully he felt good out there and we can conquer it.”

>> If Laich doesn’t play against the Sabres, Ryan Stoa will fill in on the second line. Stoa’s last NHL game came back on April 10, 2011, with the Colorado Avalanche and the 26-year-old center said he’s glad to simply have been called up.

“It’s been a really long time. You play enough games down there [in the AHL] you start to lose hope sometimes,” Stoa said. “It’s nice to be back.”

Oates said the decision to bring Stoa up was in part because of his success in Hershey this season and in part because rookie Michael Latta only just recently recovered from a lower-body injury.

“I don’t think [Latta’s] really in game shape, especially for this level,” Oates said. “Ryan’s played well down there and is a good skater, so we’re trying to stay as fast as we can as a team.”

>> Braden Holtby, who is coming off a 21-save shutout in Montreal, gets the nod in Buffalo. This will be the first time since Dec. 3 and 7 that Holtby’s made consecutive starts.

>> The Capitals may have caught a break in this visit to Buffalo: Jhonas Enroth will be in net for the Sabres rather than Ryan Miller, who had stopped 77 of 79 shots he faced from Washington this season.

>> Projected lineups

Capitals
Johansson-Ovechkin-Backstrom
Erat-Laich/Stoa-Brouwer
Chimera-Beagle-Wilson
Fehr-Wellman-Ward

Alzner-Carlson
Orlov-Green
Erskine-Carrick

Holtby, Neuvirth.

Sabres
Matt Moulson-Tyler Ennis-Zemgus Girgensons
Steve Ott-Cody Hodgson-Ville Leino
Marcus Foligno-Philip Varone-Brian Flynn
John Scott-Zenon Konopka-Matt Ellis

Tyler Myers-Henrik Tallinder
Christian Ehrhoff-Chad Ruhwedel
Mike Weber-Alexander Sulzer

Jhonas Enroth will start. Ryan Miller will back up.

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