The Washington Times - February 5, 2013, 11:13AM

Brooks Laich is “really close” to being able to take contact in practice as he deals with a groin injury, Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said Tuesday.

Laich skated by himself before Tuesday’s morning skate and remained on the ice with teammates, even though he did not take part in line rushes. The forward has been skating with the Caps since Thursday in Toronto.

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Laich, who declined to talk to reporters about his injury, is making some progress, Oates said.

“He said he felt a lot better. He looks a lot better,” Oates said. “It’s one of those situations where I got to trust the trainers and doctors in terms of evaluation, how soon. I don’t know. Sometimes it might linger, sometimes it might just go to that next level and feel great.”

Laich last week took exception to the idea that he wasn’t yet ready to take contact in practice on the day he skated with teammates for the first time this season. Clearly he’s not doing so yet, but that time could be fast approaching.

“I think he’s really close to contact,” Oates said. “I can only speak from experience where I had a couple groin injuries and you feel like it’s lingering and all of a sudden one day you feel like, ‘Wow, it’s that much better that I can take contact.’ Then once you get over that hurdle, you’re fine.”

Oates has said repeatedly that the Caps don’t want to rush Laich and have the 29-year-old suffer a setback. Getting Laich to take it slowly is a challenge.

“I would hope every guy wants to play, but, yeah, I know what you mean. He’s dying,” Oates said. “Nobody wants to miss time at the start of the year and he’s a big part of our team. We miss him.”

Laich is on the nonroster list. He can be activated at any time. There is no timetable for his return.