Karl Alzner reached out to former teammates and friends, every hockey player he knew who had undergone sports hernia surgery. Alzner had avoided serious injury for years, but a torn groin, related to his sports hernia injury, in the playoffs had him facing an offseason of recovery.
He had seen how longtime teammate Brooks Laich, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, had struggled after groin injuries and a sports hernia surgery, never quite regaining his former form. But Alzner was still encouraged by what others told him.
“In a way, I’m similar to [Laich] where I get antsy fast if I’m not doing something,” Alzner said. “I don’t think I’m as extreme as him. I think he can’t take more than half a day off and he has to get to back at it, and I think that was where I maybe benefited a little more, so far at least. I had some good rest, and we had a baby, so it wasn’t like I was getting to the gym all that much anyway.
“At first, I was nervous, and that’s why I asked every single guy about it. I think, besides Brooks, everybody else had good things to say.”
Alzner was one of three Capitals on the ice for an informal skate at Kettler Capitals IcePlex on Monday morning. After having surgery in mid-June, he started skating in July with fellow Capitals defenseman John Carlson.
As Alzner understands it, the instability with the sports hernia, which Alzner said had bothered him to a degree for about a year, likely led to his torn groin. He was told that groin surgery was unnecessary, and he estimates that it’s about 85 percent healed. He expects to be fully healthy by the start of training camp.
“If I’m not, it’s because I’ve done something else while skating,” Alzner said. “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be.”
The Capitals’ iron man, Alzner owns the team’s franchise record for consecutive games played with 458, which is still active. Under Coach Barry Trotz, Washington considers Alzner to be one of the team’s most improved players, and last season he scored four goals and 17 assists while averaging a career-high 21 minutes and 23 seconds. After injuries hit the Capitals’ blue line throughout the season, Alzner and Matt Niskanen were the team’s top defense pair, tasked with the most challenging defensive assignments.
Alzner is an especially important piece on Washington’s penalty kill; he was second to Niskanen in time on ice there (233:10) and he blocked a team-high 49 shots when the Capitals were shorthanded. Alzner’s 207 blocked shots ranked third in the NHL. He is an unrestricted free agent after next season.