Surgery is not being considered in Brooks Laich’s recovery from a lingering groin injury but the Capitals have decided that the forward will not return to the ice until he is completely “pain free,” Coach Adam Oates said Tuesday.
Laich, 29, will miss his sixth consecutive and 34th game of the season with a groin injury Tuesday night as the Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center. There remains no timetable for Laich’s return, only the stipulation that he will be pain free before he starts skating again.
“We came to the conclusion that we want him to be pain free before he goes on the ice again,” Oates said. “So he’s working as hard as he can to become pain free. We don’t want any setbacks and that’s what he’s trying to do.
“We want it to be 100 percent pain free, we don’t want to do what we did last time,” Oates said. “We want to make sure that you’re 100 percent.”
Laich was seen walking around the Capitals’ training facility in Arlington with a pronounced limp, favoring his right leg, Tuesday morning. Asked if surgery was an option for the utility forward, Oates replied: “Not right now, no.”
Laich suffered the initial groin injury in November while playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. He missed the first 28 games of the season before making his season debut on March 19 at Pittsburgh but Oates acknowledged that Laich was not completely healthy when he returned.
“I think he thought he was pain free at the beginning and then all of a sudden, I shouldn’t speak too much for him, but I think it was more fatigue,” Oates said. “We thought it was fatigue from lack of use and loss of some strength and maybe he was aggravating it.”
When he returned to the lineup, Laich skated two shifts on the fourth line before being elevated to the second unit. Of the nine games Laich appeared in he played over 19 minutes three times.
“At first didn’t play him too much and the score dictated that in a couple games and he was feeling pretty good,” Oates said. “Then he just started to tire and weaken and we determined that it was painful so we don’t want to get to that point again.”
Asked if the start of the playoffs would be an ideal target date for Laich to return, Oates said: “Yeah, I would say that would be a legitimate goal for us. We’ll go back from there.”
Having a best-case-scenario in mind is far from knowing when Laich will actually be completely healthy and able to return to the Capitals’ lineup, though.