Brooks Laich ramped up the intensity of his on-ice workouts over the past several days and the Capitals forward is confident he’s nearing a return from the groin injury that has sidelined him since November.
“I’m feeling good on the ice and I’m getting really anxious to play. I’m sure it’ll be very, very soon,” Laich said Sunday. “In my mind it’s sooner than later. I’m really getting the itch, really wanting to get back in the lineup.”
Laich, 29, won’t play against the Sabres on Sunday night at Verizon Center but he wanted to. He’s following the schedule that the Capitals’ athletic training staff has set for him and is trying to remain patient in the final stages of his recovery, knowing that he doesn’t want to risk a set back by returning too early.
At this stage, though, Laich said he feels ready physically.
“I feel like I have full function. I feel like my power’s there. I’m able to explode. I don’t have any inhibition on the ice,” Laich said. “So now just, this is another step according to a plan that was set out when I started skating. It takes a little bit of time. One thing we don’t want to do is get caught up in the moment and throw ourselves back a couple weeks.”
Laich explained that once he skated with the team on March 11 and was comfortable during that workout, the plan was set for him to increase his aggressiveness in practice and then maintain that intensity without experiencing any pain. It’s a several-day process to get an accurate read on how his body responds to the additional stress, but so far, so good.
“I had a really good day Friday in Boston; I skated hard [Saturday] before the game, just on my own with a couple coaches and really pushed the envelope: stops and starts, turns, explosions, with and without a puck, battles in the corner,” Laich said. “Now we just have to make sure that we stay comfortable and stay aggressive with the skating and able to maintain that level every day and not have that performance decline.”
While he won’t be in the lineup against Buffalo, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Laich return during the Capitals’ upcoming road trip. Washington will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday, then travel to face Winnipeg on Thursday and Friday and then take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 24.
“I’m in the pushing the envelope [mode],” Laich said. “I feel like I’m ready to play.”