Forward still not ready after lower-body injury

The Capitals may need to use some of that extra forward depth they acquired.

Forward Brooks Laich is still fighting a lower-body injury, according to general manager George McPhee, and did not participate Sunday in the team's first official practice since the four-month NHL lockout ended.

"I'm pretty active. There's a lot of things I can do," said Laich, who skated on his own before his teammates took to the ice before a capacity crowd at Kettler Iceplex but declined to speculate on his return. "I'll just say I have a road map that I'm following, and it's going very well."

McPhee dodged the question when asked whether Laich passed his mandatory team physical or what the timeline is for his return. Laich is believed to have sustained a groin injury while playing in Switzerland during the lockout.

"There are some injuries that you can play through if it's not going to make it worse," McPhee said. "But if it's an injury that's going to get worse by playing with it, then we gotta be careful."

Added teammate Troy Brouwer: "[Laich is] a pretty proud guy. He wants to be out there, and he feels like when he's not out there, he's letting his teammates down. But we want him to come back and ... be a hundred percent before he comes back. Anything less than that we feel like he would be hurting the team."

Laich, 29, played for the Kloten Flyers in the Swiss Elite League this fall and winter, scoring six goals with 12 assists in 19 games. He has long been a durable presence in Washington's lineup, missing just four games in the last five seasons. Last year he sustained what looked like a serious knee injury in a Feb. 5 loss to Boston but was back on the ice two days later.

"For me, it's great personal pride to play and practice every day. That's something that I learned from my parents and something I really take to heart," Laich said.

"That is a disappointment, and obviously there's a new system, new faces. I want to get to know them, and they want to get to know me, and that plays into it, too. But for me, I feel it's my duty to play and practice every day."