It was March of the 2011-12 season when Joel Ward first noticed the pain in his groin. It didn’t seem like anything serious at the time, just regular wear and tear, and once the adrenaline boost kicked in during the playoffs he hardly thought about it.

During his summer workouts, though, Ward felt a twinge again. This time, the pain stretched into his lower abdomen and resulted in Ward undergoing sports hernia surgery in late June.

Dr. Michael Brunt, who operated on Mike Green back in January, performed the surgery in St. Louis. Ward had been through surgery rehabs before, so he sort of knew what to expect, but that didn’t make it any less of a challenge.

“The crappy part about it is I was in bed for two weeks just doing nothing,” Ward explained. “With workouts and stuff, that kind of put a halt on that. That was the really terrible part for me — it was a mental block but it was a good challenge to get back into gear and ramp it up.”

On Wednesday, Ward was on the ice at KCI with a handful of Capitals teammates. So far, he hasn’t experienced any setbacks in his recovery. Ward’s focus now is to continue ramping up his conditioning to ensure that he is ready for whenever the new season might start.

“I’m slowly just trying to do some small exercises to strengthen muscles there and I’ve been trying to get on the ice as much as I can now,” said Ward, who spends his offseasons in Toronto. “I’ve been skating back at home a bit. I can’t play one-on-one with [Jay] Beagle all day but I’ve been having time to just get out there and move around as much as I can. Just trying to be cautious about it, basically.”

Living in Toronto, Ward said it was virtually impossible to not follow news of the NHL’s labor negotiations. He’s holding out hope that a deal could be struck before the current collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. Saturday night and if one is, Ward says he’ll be ready.

“It’s just good to be back, to play again,” Ward said. “It’s been a long couple of weeks in the summer and for us to even think about sitting out another long portion would be dreadful. It’s good to be back on the ice, to see the guys — you want to play right away. I think I’m ready to go. It’s just a matter of keep executing every day.”


Joel Ward on awkward hernia moments