(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Brooks Laich has been cleared to take contact in practice, Coach Adam Oates said Wednesday following the Capitals practice in Tampa Bay.

While it’s certainly a positive development for Washington’s utility forward, who suffered a groin injury while playing in Switzerland during the lockout, there remains no firm timeline for Laich return to the lineup.

“I think it’s going to be a day-to-day basis evaluation because it’s one of those things where we don’t want to set it back, but how do we test it?” Oates said. “I think it’s very big. Obviously we got to get through some contact where he feels good, and then we know we’re going in the right direction. But I’m sure for him it’s obviously a step going in the right direction.”

Laich has been skating with the team regularly since Jan. 31 and he took part in practice at Tampa Bay Times Forum Wednesday, but he appeared to be in pain each time that he tried to make a hard stop while participating in various drills.

Groin injuries are notoriously temperamental and can lead to abdominal tears, and one need only look at how the ailment sidelined Tom Poti and Mike Green for prolonged lengths of time during their careers to be reminded.

There’s a delicate balance between helping Laich progress and risking a set-back but Oates said the Capitals will work to find the appropriate amount of contact to gauge the forward’s progress.

“We’ll get some drills where he gets to engage and minor contact,” Oates said. “Really, he’s going to be on the ice so guarded and protecting it that the real test will be when he gets that bump when he’s not expecting it.”

Laich has repeatedly decline to comment on his recovery status and opted not to discuss his health again on Wednesday. It’s a frustrating injury for any player, particularly someone like Laich who rarely misses game time because of an injury.

“For a player, it’s very difficult. It happened to me twice in my career where I had an abdominal tear,” Oates said. “It was very frustrating because you didn’t feel like it was healing and all of a sudden one day it was fine. There was no line that it went down.”