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Capitals' Laich feeling better physically, mentally

by Ben Raby

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals welcomed a familiar face back to practice Tuesday when injured forward Brooks Laich skated with his teammates for the first time since Feb. 16.

Laich has missed the entire season with a strained groin muscle suffered in Switzerland during the lockout. There still is no time frame for his return.

"It's been a lot of work," Laich said ahead of the Capitals' game Tuesday against the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. "It's been the hardest thing I've ever gone through. Physically it's a lot of work, but mentally probably even more draining. But hopefully it's all for good. We have a great medical staff that's really helped me and pushed me in the right direction. Hopefully I'll be back out soon."

Laich had missed four games in the previous five seasons, and the versatile forward had 16 goals and 41 points in 82 games last season.

"I was almost to the breaking point," Laich said of having to miss the first half of the season. "It was a lot of tough days, a lot of long, hard days mentally for myself. I really enjoy playing the game and I really miss being part of the team. And to be able to get this sort of mind vitamin today gives me some more energy and a better attitude and hopefully gets me back in the lineup soon."

The 29-year-old has been missed sorely among Washington's top-six as first-year coach Adam Oates has gone with a left wing by committee to play alongside Mike Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin on the team's No. 1 line.

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