Brooks Laich’s future with Capitals has become as unpredictable as this month’s weather.
According to the Capitals, Laich underwent a procedure today to release a tight adductor. The procedure, performed by St. Louis groin specialist Michael Brunt, generally takes 4-6 weeks for a full recovery, according to a release issued by the team.
The procedure was delayed a few hours because of inclement weather in Washington.
This marks the second straight season Laich will be unavailable to the Capitals in the final stretch of the regular season.
Laich has missed 18 games this season with a groin injury first suffered during last year’s NHL lockout while he was playing in Switzerland.
Laich missed the first 28 games of last season and returned for nine games, only to pull himself out of the lineup to undergo a similar groin procedure performed by Brunt in April.
Laich missed the final 11 games of the regular season and the playoffs last season and despite playing in 51 games this season he has been dogged by groin pain all season.
Capitals center Mikhail Grabovski also remained home while the Capitals are in California for a three-game set against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Grabovski has missed 17 of the Caps’ last 18 games with a left ankle injury. He said on Sunday that his ankle is “feeling better” and that he hopes to skate with the team when the Caps return from their road trip next week.
“It’s hard because it’s my ankle and I make lots of turns,” Grabovski said. “I’ll see how it feels.”
The extended absences of Laich and Grabovski has meant added ice time and responsibilities for left wings Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dustin Penner and center Jay Beagle.
Kuznetsov [15:48 ice time, 2:39 on the power play] and Penner [10:56, 2:34] have eaten up some of Laich’s minutes on the power play, while Beagle [12:43] saw time on the Capitals’ top line with Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin Sunday afternoon in the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs.
Oates said he’s not adverse to trying Kuznetsov on the penalty kill as well.
“You can see he’s got the mind for it,” Oates said. “Killing penalties is an attitude because it might be your turn to block a shot and some of those guys can shoot the puck pretty hard. It’s another unselfish part of the game.”
The injuries to Laich and Grabovski also paint a cloud over their futures with the Caps.
Laich has another three years and $13.5 million remaining on his contract and if he ends the season on the injured list it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the Capitals to use a compliance buyout on him.
Grabovski is on a one-year, $3 million contract with the Capitals and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.