“That was a good sign,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Looks like he’s going to be getting ready to play this weekend, if I can get him in the lineup.”
Laich had approached the medical staff about ramping up his contact, one of the last hurdles to clear with his recovering shoulder. When trainers told Laich to consult Trotz, Trotz agreed.
“No setbacks or anything for myself,” Laich told reporters later. “Pretty good day.”
The Capitals practice again in Ballston on Thursday morning before flying to Chicago, where they begin a road-home back-to-back against the Blackhawks. If he indeed returns then, the question becomes how the Capitals will accommodate Laich, who was not placed onto injured reserve but would become their 14th healthy forward.
In five games before suffering the injury on a collision with Shawn Thornton, Laich registered one point — an assist. At times he centered Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, and also played on the wing beside Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson. Laich could fit into many roles, including a temporary fourth-line spot if Washington wanted to ease him back into game speed. Trotz offered no hints about who might be removed from the lineup.
“I don’t know if they’re ever tricky,” Trotz said. “I think it’s just balancing what we need and roles. I think Brooks obviously was a very valuable guy before he got hurt for us. I think he played a valuable role for us. He played against top lines, he was moving around, he was on the top line, he was on the checking line, he moved around a little bit.
“Getting him back, he’s a quality player. What it does is just put more competition on the group. Competition’s a good thing. Your ice time should be always earned and so we’ll get him in.”
Asked whether he was still targeting Chicago for his return, Laich replied, “Even more so today. I was very optimistic yesterday. Even more so today. Ice down after the skate. We have another day tomorrow. It’s still almost two and a half more days until game time, which is a lot of healing.”