Leonsis: Ovechkin is locked in right now
Tom Poti’s remarkable comeback is complete.
When the Caps boarded their Friday afternoon flight to Tampa for their season opener Saturday night against the Lightning Poti was on it. No small accomplishment for a 35-year-old defenseman who sat out the entire 2011-12 season with a fractured pelvis.
Poti reported to training camp last week and was immediately loaned to the Hershey Bears, where he played two game and recorded one goal.
“I felt great in the two games I played and I’m excited,” Poti said. “I got two more games than most guys [in training camp]. It’s 95 percent mental and 5 percent physical. You can’t outthink yourself, just go out and play.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates said he’s unsure whether Poti will be in the lineup against the Lightning. The Caps took eight defensemen with them to Tampa and four of them – Poti, Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Jack Hillen – are fighting for the final two spots.
“I’m just happy he’s able to play, as I’m sure he is,” Oates said. “It’s been such a long time for him and so frustrating. “
Poti’s extensive pre- and post-practice routine includes a series of warm-up and cool-down stretching exercises. He said his groin area responded well in his two games for Hershey and he’s ready to contribute at the NHL level.
“When you come off the injured list there’s always that magic moment when he takes that one hit,” Oates said. “He’s a very, very smart player. He’s played the game a long time and he doesn’t get rattled. He’s just a solid guy to be back in the lineup.”
Loose pucks: Oates confirmed G Braden Holtby will be his starter Saturday night. If Poti returns to the lineup, look for him to be paired with Schultz, which would leave Erskine and Hillen as the odd men out. The first two defense pairings will have Karl Alzner with John Carlson and Mike Green with Roman Hamrlik. … C Brooks Laich [apparent groin strain] skated on his own Friday and is expected to miss his first season opener since joining the Caps nine games into the 2005-06 season. … With Laich out of the lineup, the only battle at the forward position appears to be between Eric Fehr and Joey Crabb for the role of fourth-line right wing.
The forward lines have been constant from the first day of training camp:
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Wojtek Wolski – Mike Ribeiro – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks – Mathieu Perreault – Eric Fehr/Joey Crabb
Knuble signs with Grand Rapids: Mike Knuble did not make the Red Wings' final roster cut but signed a professional tryout contract Friday with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. Knuble remains a free agent can can sign with any NHL team.