After a day away from the rink on Sunday, the Capitals returned to work on Monday without injured forwards Joel Ward and Brooks Laich.
And when top-line left wing Marcus Johansson left the ice early after tweaking what the club is calling a lower body injury, concerns reached a higher level until coach Adam Oates downplayed Johansson’s early departure.
“He just said he was a little sore and I said to get off because I knew were going to do a little skate at the end,” Oates said.
Johansson has four goals and 12 assists in his last 15 games and has been a key component in the success of the Caps’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Ward, who has missed three games with a contusion on his left knee after blocking a shot on April 7, skated briefly but did not participate in the full practice.
Laich, who has played in just nine of the Capitals’ 43 games this season, remains sidelined by a groin or lower abdominal injury aggravated on April 4.
Oates hesitated when asked if the team had reached a conclusion on the next step for Laich.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” Oates said. “We’re still evaluating and talking.”
Asked if Laich will undergo surgery, Oates said, “I’ll give you a better answer tomorrow.”
If Laich requires sports hernia surgery similar to the ones Mike Green and Joel Ward had last year he would likely miss 4 to 6 weeks. That would allow him to return to the lineup sometime in the second round of the playoffs, at the earliest.
Oates described Laich as a top-six forward who can play in every situation, adding he was a big part of the Caps’ turnaround, which began with back-to-back wins in Winnipeg last month.
“He’s one of the guy who pulls the team along,” Oates said. “Winnipeg was a great start for us and Brooks was a big part of that.”
With Laich out of the lineup the Caps will be relying on Martin Erat to give a spark to a second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer.
“He’s still finding it,” Oates said. “But I thought he played good.”
The Caps also practiced without defenseman Jack Hillen, who returned to Minnetonka, Minn., to see his wife, Caitlin, and their newborn son, Knox Patrick. Hillen is expected back in the lineup Tuesday night when the Maple Leafs visit the Caps.