The Capitals are headed to Tampa Bay for the season opener on Saturday and defenseman Tom Poti is going with them. The writing was on the wall when Poti was recalled from a conditioning stint at AHL Hershey and general manager George McPhee said he could play Saturday. Head coach Adam Oates confirmed that after Friday’s practice at Kettler Iceplex.

Whether Poti actually plays against the Lightning is another story. He would be one of eight defensemen on the final roster assuming the team makes no changes before a 5 p.m. deadline Friday. Poti has missed two full seasons with a fractured pelvis and a groin injury.

“It’s kind of hard to evaluate [Poti] in such a short span,” Oates said. “I talked to [head coach] Mark French down in Hershey and he played very well down there. He feels he’s ready to give it a shot.”

Oates also said that Braden Holtby will be the starter in goal on Saturday over Michal Neuvirth. No real surprise there. He declined to name his alternate captains for this season.

Meanwhile, still waiting on official word on forward Brooks Laich’s status. He skates again on Friday by himself before practice, Oates said. But he almost certainly won’t be on the opening roster thanks to an apparent lingering groin injury. Laich has missed a total of four games in the last five seasons and hasn’t missed a Washington season opener since the start of the 2005-06 season.

But for the players actually on the trip to Tampa Bay, this is a moment they’ve been waiting on for months. It should have happened in October like always. Instead, it’s in the middle of January thanks to the four-month NHL lockout. But it’s finally here.

“Guys are coming for practice way before they normally do. Guys are on the ice a long time before we’re supposed to be on the ice.” forward Troy Brouwer said. “We’re still working our systems out right now, there are going to be mistakes, we know that. But as long as you can limit those mistakes and make sure that you’re falling back on your systems as a safety net we’ll be alright.”

The lines at Friday’s morning skate remained the same as they have been all week.






The defense pairings:





Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14