No news is not necessarily good news when it comes to Brooks Laich and his groin injury. Information is scarce from the Washington Capitals, who continue to list the forward as day-to-day.
But that’s masking the possibility that Laich could miss at least the final seven games of the regular season. He saw Dr. Michael Brunt and another specialist this week, and coach Adam Oates said doctors are “having a tough time identifying exactly” what the problem is.
“He’s got to believe that we’re going to do our job to make sure we make a run here,” Green said. “And as long as he does his job, he’ll be back and we’ll still be playing hockey when he’s back.”
No one knows when Laich might be back, or those with that knowledge aren’t sharing that information. General manager George McPhee declined comment Friday when asked about Laich, saying only, “We know what the issue is.”
Because skating motions are not as natural to the human body as walking and running, groin injuries are common for hockey players. Green missed 41 games last season with a groin injury that led to an abdominal tear and required sports hernia surgery, done by Brunt in January 2012.
Defenseman Tom Poti missed two full years with groin injuries and a fractured pelvis. He never had surgery to repair groin problems.
It’s uncertain if surgery would help Laich more than rest and rehabilitation.
“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 got to make a decision. It’s unfortunate that he’s going through what he’s going through right now.”
It was difficult for Laich to be away from his teammates and not on the ice for games. At some point he might have to make a decision, but Laich said his plan is to play until he’s 50 and doesn’t take sitting out well.
If nothing else, Laich has plenty of guys around the Caps to talk to about groin injuries. In addition to Green and right wing Joel Ward (who had sports hernia surgery last summer), Oates tore a groin muscle twice during his career.
Oates said the second time he was a day away from seeing a specialist in Vancouver and having sports hernia surgery to repair a lower abdominal tear.
“You get checked for a hernia every day, you got a cortisone shot, you try everything: witch doctor, you name it,” Oates said. “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 suffered the original groin injury in Switzerland in November during the NHL lockout. He returned March 19 at the Pittsburgh Penguins and was injured again in his ninth game of the season, April 4 against the New York Islanders.
Laich took a puck to a sensitive area in the second period, but Oates said that was not the injury that caused him to leave the game. The coach recalled trainer Greg Smith recommending “you might want to shut him down,” and it was obvious that Laich wasn’t skating normally in his final couple of shifts.
“Some things are going to stay in house,” Laich said after that game. “The game was pretty fast. I really don’t have a lot to say.”
Laich has not skated with the Caps or spoken to reporters since.
“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.”
It’s uncertain how long it will take for Laich and those treating him to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. If he goes the sports hernia surgery route, he has Green’s recent history to lean on. The 27-year-old defenseman missed a month last season after the original prognosis was that he would be out four-to-six weeks.
“You know you’re out for an extended period of time,” Green said. “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.”
“If I would have tried to battle through that, then it could have been years. I’ve talked to him about it, the progress and success I’ve had with mine over the course of two months, three months after I had mine,” Green said. “He’s going to go through the same thing, but it’s night and day when you come out of there with it feeling like that, or fixed at least.”