Brooks Laich is facing one of the toughest decisions of his hockey career.
Does he undergo surgery to correct groin issues that have kept him out of 32 of the Capitals’ 41 games this season?
Or does he try to rehab his way back into the lineup?
Either way, Laich’s return to the lineup could be weeks away.
“He’s seeing a lot of [specialists],” Capitals coach Adam Oates said after Friday’s practice at Kettler. “We’re tying to figure out any way we can to get him on the ice before we go to other steps. They’re still having a tough time identifying exactly what it is.”
Laich missed the first 28 games of the season with a groin strain before returning on March 19 and playing in nine games. He has sat out the last four games and appears to be contemplating sports hernia surgery, which requires a minimum recovery period of four to six weeks.
“At some point you just have to make a decision,” said Caps defenseman Mike Green, who had sports hernia surgery last January and returned five weeks later. “He’s a strong mental guy and he’ll come out of this if he works hard.”
Green spent the first half of last season battling through groin issues and said having surgery was the right decision for him.
“If I were to try to battle through that it could have been years,” he said. “I talked to him about it and the progress and success I had with mine. It’s night and day.”
Laich told reporters a few weeks ago that he wanted to avoid surgery at all costs and that he would explore all of his options to get back in the lineup. Laich has visited with at least two specialists this week in an effort to determine if surgery is an option and, if so, what the surgery entails.
“You obviously want to fix it, but if you can’t pinpoint what it is, you have to be careful,” Oates said.
“Brooks is dying. He wants to be a part of this and we need him. That’s why we want to make it as short as possible. It goes to show you how difficult the trauma is because it’s been all year we’ve been trying to figure it out.”
Green said Laich already has done everything within his power to avoid surgery.
“He’s hard-headed, but who knows? I gave him my info, but who knows how he takes it?”
If Laich undergoes sports hernia and is sidelined 4-6 weeks, he’ll miss the rest of the regular season and at least the first round of the playoffs.
“There’s a timeline to it,” Green said. “It’s frustrating, but the more positive you can stay the better. I beat myself up over it and that’s never good, especially when you’re not playing and your team is going into the playoffs.
“He’s gotta believe that we’re going to do our job to make sure we take a run here and as long as he does his job he’ll be back and we’ll still be playing hockey when he’s back.”
In other injury news, Martin Erat said he’s feeling better and he is expected to return to the lineup Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Caps.
Erat is expected to play left wing on a second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer.
Joel Ward [left knee contusion] skated gingerly in warmups Friday and is hoping to return on Tuesday night at home against the Maple Leafs.