A sullen and visibly frustrated Brooks Laich spoke to reporters Saturday after the Washington Capitals wrapped up practice before heading to Manhattan for their game Sunday against the New York Rangers. The 29-year-old forward, who has yet to play this season due to a groin injury that he suffered while playing overseas during the NHL lockout, is fighting both physical pain and mental anguish as he continues to recover.
"It sort of goes day by day," he said. "Some days are better than others. It's really tough to measure, but it's really frustrating and a bit of a roller coaster. I'm just trying to stay optimistic.
"The toughest part is just missing playing games and even missing practice," Laich continued. "It's the passion in my life to play hockey and that kind of gets taken away from you, it's really tough to take and really frustrating. You try to do your best to get back as quick as you can and sometimes there's things that are out of your control. Sometimes time is your enemy, too. It's been the hardest thing I think I've ever gone through in my hockey career."
Laich has missed all 14 games this season after missing only four total due to injury between 2007-12 and there is no timetable for his return. Laich said Saturday that he, like many hockey players, has played through injuries before, but feels that he would only hinder the Capitals' forward progress -- they have won three straight -- if he attempted to play now.
"There's a lot of injuries you can play through -- and I've played through a lot in my career -- but a lot of those are just about handling the pain, but you are still able to be effective if you can control the pain," Laich said. "The injury that I currently have is a little different than that. If I was on the ice, I wouldn't be effective for our team, I wouldn't be able to help our team win. And I would never go out on the ice if I was going to be detrimental to our team. Right now, I would love to play, but I can't physically help our team win."
Laich, who said Saturday that surgery is not an option that he has explored, was cleared to take contact in practice Wednesday while Washington was in the midst of a two-game road trip in Florida and has started to take part in team meetings. Yet, while being around the team has provided some solace, not being able to play has started to take its toll on Laich.
"It's not the same as being on the ice," he said. "It's not the same as being in the battle and in the fight with the guys. It's certainly a view that I really don't like to experience."
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