Little updated news on injured Capitals forward Brooks Laich, who has not played since suffering a lower-body injury on April 4 against the New York Islanders that exacerbated a previous groin injury.
Laich has not been seen on the ice at Kettler Iceplex since that night, missing the last four games. He saw Dr. Michael Brunt, a noted St. Louis-based groin specialist, locally on Tuesday and Caps coach Adam Oates said on Friday afternoon that Laich has since met with another specialist.
There were conflicting statements from management, however. Caps general manager George McPhee declined comment except to say that the team knows the issue Laich is facing. Oates was more specific, but said the latest injury is still unclear.
“[Laich has] seen a lot of people and we’re just trying to figure out any way we can to get him on the ice before we go to other steps,” Oates said. “He’s got a groin problem. They still are having a tough time identifying exactly what it is.”
Added Oates: “You’re just looking for an answer. Because you can’t pinpoint what it is. And at first it’s rest and heal and is it a groin? Is it low back? There’s just so much stress on those areas there it’s really difficult to find. And obviously you do all the tests and see all the specialists.”
Laich was originally injured in November while playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. He missed the first 28 games of the season before returning March 19. Washington is 6-2-1 with Laich, 29, in the lineup at left wing. Not exactly known for conceding to pain, Laich admitted last month that sitting out was the most trying experience of his career. Prior to this season he had missed just four games in five years.
Teammates have tried to help. Defenseman Mike Green struggled most of last season with a groin injury and eventually had sports hernia surgery on Jan. 17. He was back in game action on Feb. 18 and finished out the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs save a three-game suspension in March. But is surgery an option in Laich’s case? That still remains unclear.
“I talked to [Laich] early on in the year. The sound of it, it’s one of those things – the same thing I had – where it wasn’t able to be rehabbed to 100 percent,” Green said. “At some point you just gotta make a decision. It’s unfortunate that he’s going through what he’s going through right now.”
Laich’s Ontario-based agent, Roland Thompson, declined to comment on his client’s status or say if surgery was possible when reached via email this week. Teammate Joel Ward had sports hernia surgery last offseason. Oates said he twice tore his groin during his playing career.
“And Brooks is dying. He wants to be a part of this,” Oates said. “And we need him. So obviously 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 they’ve been trying figure it out.
But while his teammates have said their piece at various points this season, it’s hard to know exactly how receptive Laich has been to that information. It is a lonely, frustrating time for any athlete – especially one used to powering through injuries.
“I don’t know. You know Brooks, he’s hard-headed,” Green said. “I gave him my info, but who knows how he takes it. He’s got one vision and that’s in his own head.”
Added Green: “I beat myself up about [the groin injury] and that’s never good either, especially when you’re not playing for your team and you’re going into playoffs and whatnot. [Laich has] got to believe that we’re going to do our job to make sure we make 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.”
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