Brooks Laich has been dealing with a groin injury since before the NHL season began, but the Washington Capitals are not sharing much more information than that. Laich has missed four games since suffering a lower-body injury April 4 that coach Adam Oates said was negatively affecting his groin.
“He’s got a groin problem,” Oates said Friday. “They still are having a tough time identifying exactly what it is.”
Laich is out indefinitely.
He saw Dr. Michael Brunt on Tuesday and another specialist Thursday. Asked for an update on Laich general manager George McPhee declined comment other than to say, “We know what the issue is.”
The Caps appear to be exploring options on what to do next. Oates did not offer anything more of a concrete update on Laich after Friday’s practice.
“I’m sorry. I really don’t have one still,” the coach said. “He’s 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.”
Laich missed the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury suffered while playing in Switzerland during the lockout. He returned to play nine games, and Washington was 6-2-1 with the 29-year-old in the lineup.
Oates tore a groin muscle twice in his playing career, seven years apart.
“The second time I was like a day away from Vancouver and seeing that guy and having surgery,” he said. “But mine was abdominal, lower abdominal. But they check me, almost the same style . You get checked for a hernia every day, you got a cortisone shot, you try everything. Witch doctor, you name it. Anything you can. …
“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 is very likely going through that process right now. But he doesn’t like acknowledging he cannot play.
“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.”
Defenseman Mike Green went through that uncertainty last season after tearing a groin muscle and trying to play. He opted for sports hernia surgery with Brunt that he underwent Jan. 17, 2012 and returned to game action Feb. 18, 2012.
“I talked to him 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. He’s strong mentally, mental guy that will come out of this great. He works hard and he’ll be fine.”
It is uncertain whether surgery is something that will fix what’s wrong with Laich. Right wing Joel Ward also had sports hernia surgery done by Brunt last summer. Defenseman Tom Poti dealt with groin injuries that led to a fractured pelvis and kept him out for two years.
Laich does not want to miss any games, so he might be hard-pressed to accept the four-to-six-week timeframe that’s required to come back from sports hernia surgery.
“Then you know you’re out for an extended period of time,” said Green, who missed a total of 41 games with the groin injury/abdominal tear in 2011-12. “There’s a timeline to it and it’s frustrating but the more positive you can stay and through the process is better. I beat myself up about it and that’s never good either, especially when you’re not playing for your team and you’re going into playoffs and whatnot. He’s 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.”
Laich called his time out earlier in this season the worst experience of his career. That’s perhaps why Green’s advice could fall on deaf ears.
“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.”