- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 17, 2011

Roman Hamrlik has been through this once or twice or 18 times before. The 38-year-old defenseman is used to training camp from his long NHL career.

So when he was feeling some tightness in his groin muscles before getting set to do some physically intense conditioning sprints, coach Bruce Boudreau pulled the plug.

“I wanted to make sure that it’s his first day out with us that he wasn’t trying to be overly brave and do something,” Boudreau said. “Once he said, ‘They’re a little tight,’ I said, ‘OK, fine, shut it down.’ “

Hamrlik, signed July 1 to a two-year deal worth $7 million, agreed with the decision to take it easy.

“I wanted to be safe,” he said. “It was a hard practice and I had some tightness in my groin. It was a good move by Bruce.”

Hamrlik won’t get out of the testing, which new teammate Troy Brouwer joked had him feeling “miserable.” He’ll take it next week.

Boudreau affirmed that Hamrlik didn’t aggravate an injury or hurt himself at all Saturday — just that he had some tightness earlier in the week that was reason to back off. Hamrlik is expected to practice Sunday.

Poti fails exam

Tom Poti’s groin issues haven’t gone away. General manager George McPhee confirmed as much Saturday by announcing the defenseman failed his medical exam Friday and would begin a different rehabilitation program.

“He’s certainly frustrated, and we’re disappointed because he’s a good player,” McPhee said. “He’s played very good hockey in Washington and made our team better. We just told him as we did with Brian Pothier a couple years ago: If you get to the point where you can return, we’d love to have you.”

For now, Poti is expected to start the season on long-term injured reserve, which will take his $2.875 million salary off the cap and get Washington under the salary ceiling.

And there’s still a concern, at least from the organization’s perspective, that Poti might never play again. McPhee expressed the worry at the end of last season that Poti’s career was in danger.

“I was concerned about whether he’d be able to play again,” he said. “That’s why we went out and signed Hamrlik; we didn’t want to be short. Unfortunately, he’s no further along at this point.”

Poti was not made available to reporters and his agent did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ovechkin sets pace

With so much attention on captain Alex Ovechkin’s fitness level, he put on a heck of a show during sprints — blowing away teammates at least the first few times down the ice. He probably should have paced himself, as he did slow down in the final few lengths.

“Yeah the first two times I was flying, so I thought, ‘Oh it’s going to be easy,’ ” he said. “But after that I couldn’t feel my legs and I said ‘Jesus Christ, screw that!’ “

Nicklas Backstrom later helped Ovechkin further celebrate his 26th birthday by giving him a shaving cream towel in the face.

Ice chips

• Winger Troy Brouwer, who had offseason shoulder surgery, was cleared for contact and took part in full practice Saturday. He’s confident he’ll start the regular season and is hoping to get some exhibition action, too. …

• Defenseman Dennis Wideman, who missed the end of last season with leg hematoma and compartment syndrome, deemed himself 100 percent and noted that he could play in a game tomorrow if needed. …

• Marcus Johansson was skating on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble on Day 1, but Boudreau laughed and told reporters not to read anything into his combinations.

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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