The Washington Times - January 13, 2013, 09:46AM

The Capitals on Sunday morning sent defenseman Tom Poti to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. Poti is two years removed from his last NHL game because of a groin injury and fractured pelvis.

He was in the lineup Sunday night against the Connecticut Whale.

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“If he feels OK he’ll play again Wednesday and we’ll just monitor how that goes,” general manager George McPhee said.

Poti said last week he was pain-free for the first time in a while and was hoping to be on the ice for Washington’s training camp. He also didn’t think he needed to go to the minors.

But the decision was made that playing in Hershey was more beneficial for the Caps and Poti than his being on the ice for training camp.

“We just get him going quicker. To throw him in here and play an NHL game, he might not be ready for that,” McPhee said. “So this is why Hershey’s there, to not only develop players, but let other players go down and condition themselves and see how they are.”

Poti passed his physical at Caps camp. His conditioning stint in Hershey can only last up to 14 days.

McPhee had previously called the 35-year-old’s candidacy a “long shot.” That stance hadn’t changed as of mid-day Sunday.

“No, because I haven’t really seen him,” McPhee said. “We’ll know more after he plays.”

But for the 35-year-old who hasn’t played in an NHL game since Jan. 12, 2011, just being able to play says something.

“When you’re staring the end of your career in the face, that’s a difficult thing for any athlete to contemplate,” McPhee said. “You never want to get to the end of your career. This is a great way to earn a living and live your life. So he put a lot of effort into it and he’s here. So I hope it works out for him because it would be good for us.”

UPDATE: Poti scored a power-play goal Sunday night in Hershey’s 5-0 victory. “It was awesome,” he told Tim Leone of the Patriot-News. “There was always an outside chance I’d never be able to play hockey again, so it was pretty special to be able to get out there on the ice.” Poti told Leone he hoped to play again Wednesday against the Worcester Sharks and then would await a decision from management.