Brooks Laich is going to try to rehab his way back into the lineup instead of undergoing surgery, Capitals coach Adam Oates said Tuesday.
“We came to the conclusion we want him to be pain-free before he goes on the ice again,” Oates said after the club’s morning skate in preparation for tonight’s home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. “So he’s working as hard as he can to become pain free. We don’t want any setbacks.”
Laich said he would address his decision on Wednesday.
Asked specifically if that means Laich will not undergo sports hernia surgery that sidelined defenseman Mike Green for just under five weeks last season, Oates said, “Not right now, no. We want it to be 100 percent pain free. We don’t want to do what we did last time.”
Laich first injured his groin while playing in Switzerland during the lockout. He missed the first 28 games of the Capitals’ season and returned on March 19 in Pittsburgh, Laich played in nine straight games, averaging 16:32 of ice time and leading the team to a 6-2-1 record.
“I think he thought he was pain-free in the beginning,” Oates said. “I don’t want to speak too much for him but maybe he was fatigued from lack of use and strength and maybe he was aggravating it [by playing]. He was feeling pretty good and then started feeling tired and weakened and painful and we don’t want to get to that point again.”
Oates said Laich’s goal is to return in time for the playoffs but is not guaranteeing anything.
“I would say that’s a good goal and we’ll go back from there,” Oates said.
“I think we’ve gotten close a few times. You don’t want a guy to have a setback. It’s obviously a tough injury and right now it’s between him and Smitty [athletic trainer Greg Smith] and the doctors.”
Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said losing Laich for an extended period will be significant.
“He’s one of our hardest workers and one of our most consistent players every night,” Brouwer said. “He’s that guy who always wants to be on the ice, always wants to be involved, maybe sometimes to a fault. He tries to do too much of himself. That’s a good quality to have because you want a guy who wants to be used in every situation. Guys look up to his work ethic.”