Laich initially suffered the injury Oct. 18 vs. Florida when he collided with Shawn Thornton and immediately disappeared into the locker room, holding the injured area. He missed seven straight games then returned for a 3-2 victory in Chicago that snapped the Capitals’ five-game winless slide. But Laich reinjured himself against the Blackhawks, an occurrence he later attributed to the desire to rush back.
“I wanted to play because I wanted to win that hockey game,” Laich said Monday. “Feeling a lot better now than when I did when I played that one.”
Whether Laich will return to the lineup Friday evening when Washington hosts New York is unknown, because the Capitals did not skate the morning after Thanksgiving. Instead, they conducted off-ice meetings and workouts. Coach Barry Trotz will address reporters at 3 p.m.
The Capitals have long insisted a healthy Laich adds new depth to their forward rotation, and Trotz recently hoped to start rolling four lines, “building” the fourth around Evgeny Kuznetsov. Laich could factor into those plans by centering Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, which he began the season doing, and where he skated after returning to practice.
“I can’t be a shell of myself,” Laich said. “I can’t go out there, be timid and just try to make it through the game. I’ve got to play when I can be effective. We’ve got other guys that are healthy and can really lean into the game. If I can’t do that for my teammates then I don’t think I can be effective.”
This move gives Washington 23 active players, the league maximum, so no corresponding demotion was necessary.
After hosting the Islanders, the Capitals fly to Toronto to complete their weekend back-to-back against the Maple Leafs. They do not practice again until Monday. In his six games, Laich has one assist.