Brooks Laich losing patience as groin injury lingers

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“It’s a horrible experience to deal with a groin injury like that,” the veteran defenseman said. “And the worst part about it is you never really know how bad it is. Just a little tweak could keep you out for a really long time. It’s beyond frustrating.”

Adam Oates twice in his career suffered abdominal tears, which can result from groin injuries, so he knows how difficult it can be.

“It was very frustrating because you didn’t feel like it was healing and all of a sudden one day it was fine,” the Caps’ coach said last week. “There was no line that it went down.”

Laich knows that. He has tried setting return dates in his mind numerous times and each one came and went. Lesson learned.

“I think if you do that and you don’t hit it, you go through unnecessary frustration,” Laich said. “So I’m trying to just be positive every day and make each day a good day rather than circling something and hoping to get there or forcing something to try and get there when it’s not right.”

When Oates named his alternate captains to go along with Alex Ovechkin, Laich made the cut with Green and Nicklas Backstrom. He called those players the “core group.”

But it’s not easy to lead from the press box.

“I’m sure it’s hard,” Oates said. “Everybody wants to play and you don’t want to be on the outside. And you try and be professional about it and a good guy about it. But at the end of the day, you want to play.”

At this point, it seems Laich wants that more than anything in the hockey world. Skating during the day is all well and good, but there’s a big difference between practicing and playing in real, live games.

“It’s kind of that whole mentality of gearing up for the game and being part of that game-day routine,” Halpern said. “It’s a different feeling when you’re actually part of it and you’re in that room versus sitting out.”

Laich has had to watch the Caps’ ups and downs from afar. Studying what he can and trying to get a grasp of Oates’ systems keeps him busy, but the different vantage point is tough to take.

“It’s not the same as being in the battle and in the fight with the guys,” Laich said. “It’s certainly a view that I really don’t like to experience.”

The worst part is it’s uncertain how long Laich will have to experience the strain of being out of the lineup. The Caps just have to hope that the empty feeling doesn’t drive Laich to try to come back too early.

Because if he does that, Laich really will be a ghost and this will be a lost season.

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