- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2013

Brooks Laich was the only Washington Capitals player in town who didn’t take part in the first practice of training camp Sunday as he deals with an apparent groin injury.

Neither Laich nor general manager George McPhee would say whether the forward passed his physical, but not being on the ice with teammates was not a positive development.

“He’s not quite ready to go,” McPhee said. “We’re going to do this right and make sure that he’s 100 percent before we get him out there. There are some injuries that you can play through if it’s not going to make it worse. But if it’s an injury that’s going to get worse by playing with it, then we got to be careful.”

McPhee called it a “lower-body injury,” but it was fairly obvious this week that Laich was testing a groin injury suffered while playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout. TSN reported early Sunday morning that Laich would miss the first one to two weeks of the regular season.

Laich, 29, is not one to let injuries sideline him.

“I’m waking up each day very hopeful. I can’t expand any on that,” Laich said. “I’ll just say I have a road map that I’m following and it’s going very well.”

Laich said he skated solo before teammates went on to the ice.

But his not being able to participate with the Caps could hurt Laich beyond just the disappointment of not playing. Because he was injured playing overseas during the lockout, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed to term any such incidents as not hockey-related.

As such, “The Clubs are entitled to suspend without pay for the duration of the [injury],” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email.

But Laich will continue to be allowed to use team facilities to rehab, McPhee said.

“I’m here, unless they kick me out,” Laich said.

Still, teammates don’t want Laich to rush back, even in a 48-game season that makes points more valuable.

“He’s a pretty proud guy. He wants to be out there and he feels like when he’s not out there, he’s letting his teammates down,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We want him to be 100 percent before he comes back. Anything less than that, we feel like he would be hurting the team.”

Fehr returns to Washington

The Caps on Sunday officially signed right wing Eric Fehr to a one-year, $600,000 contract. Fehr, 27, has battled shoulder injuries throughout his career but experienced success while playing in Finland during the lockout.

Fehr spent parts of six seasons in Washington before a 2011 trade to the Winnipeg Jets. His and the team’s hope is that those injury-plagued days are over.

“We talked about maybe adding a little more depth at forward. And we know this player, he’s still a young player,” McPhee said. “Looks like he’s gotten over the surgeries and the rehab and he also was playing really well in Finland. And so we thought it’d be a nice addition.”

Fehr managed to play just 35 games for Winnipeg last season and had two goals and one assist. But for HPK Hameenlinna in Finland, he had 13 goals and 12 assists in 21 games.

“Last year, I felt like I was in survival mode a little bit, just trying to get through every game,” Fehr said. “Now I’m feeling a lot better. I’m happy to be playing hockey, and it feels a lot better on the ice when you’re not in pain all the time.”

Ice chips

• Defenseman Tom Poti, who hasn’t played in two years because of a groin injury and fractured pelvis, passed his physical and then was assigned by the Caps to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. The 35-year-old can be there for up to 14 days before the Caps must bring him back.

• A settlement with ex-Caps forward Eric Belanger was part of the new collective bargaining agreement, ending a grievance over moving expenses from 2010. McPhee said Belanger moved his family to Washington before a contract was signed.

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

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