Capitals defenseman Tom Poti skates during training camp in September 2010. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Based on comments from General Manager George McPhee, however, there doesn’t appear to be much optimism that he’ll return.

“Tom’s been working at it and improving but I don’t know if he’ll ever get to the point where he can play again,” McPhee told reporters Tuesday. “As I said in the summer, we weren’t counting on it.”

Poti played just 21 games in the 2010-11 season and was in and out of the lineup with chronic groin ailments. His last game apparance was Jan. 12, 2011 against Tampa Bay, and he was forced to leave that contest when the problem flared up again. Poti, 34, hasn’t played since and has been on the long-term injury list this entire season.

Washington signed Poti to a two-year contract extension prior to the start of the 2010-11 season, so he is under contract through 2012-13 with a salary cap hit of $2.875 million and at the moment it appears possible that he may not play in either season.

Placing him on LTI offers relief in the amount of his cap hit, should the Capitals exceed the salary cap ceiling. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire this summer, injured players contracts cannot be bought out.

Mike Green’s recent trouble with a groin strain has brought comparisons to Poti but McPhee assured that they are different injuries. That is why, McPhee said, that they chose to move forward with surgery for Green but not for Poti.

“Different injuries and with respect to Tom there was at some point there was a fracture in his pelvis,” McPhee said. “He got hit hard enough and sometimes that leads to the instability and it never really gets back to where you want it to be. It’s rare but unfortunately for Tom, that’s what has happened.”

Green missed 23 consecutive games beginning in mid-November, and his injury flared up again on Jan. 7 in San Jose. That prompted the Capitals to move forward this week with sports hernia surgery when a tear in his stomach lining, which occurred in conjunction with the groin problems, wouldn’t heal correctly.

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