Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich couldn't wait for Monday to come. It's the day he's finally scheduled to hit the ice and incorporate skating into his offseason training regimen.
It's been two years since Laich has been as energized and excited to lace 'em up as he is now; two very hard, painful, injury-riddled years to be exact.
"Now when I step on the ice I feel completely free as opposed to very limited, like the last two years," Laich told NHL.com.
This can only be viewed as fantastic news for the Capitals.
Laich is Washington's most versatile forward, the only player on the roster who has the ability to excel playing any position on any line no matter the opponent. In five seasons from 2007-12, he missed four games (all in the 2009-10 season), averaged 47.6 points-per-season and played every position except goaltender.
His past two seasons have been marred by a groin injury that limited his mobility and prevented him from being a strong skater. He played in 60 games, had 19 points, two surgeries, and scores of painful days. He said it felt like his body was in prison.
"You're just fearful of any sort of acceleration, fearful of any turn, fearful of engaging in any contact because you know there's an extreme amount of pain coming your way if you do that," Laich said. "It's a very difficult way to live. It's a very difficult way to participate, let alone try to excel at the sport. What I feel is the last two years have been trying to survive that day in order to be on the ice the next day as well. That's not productive."
But Laich had surgery in mid-March to release a tight adductor muscle and now knows the feeling of liberation. He says that he's "completely healthy" and has "had just an unbelievable summer of training."
Laich, now 31, also feels his best is yet to come.
"I don't knock on wood. That's the way I feel," Laich said. "Last summer, having gone through a procedure, I tried to make myself believe I was healthy in order to try and feel that way. This summer is different. I completely feel healthy so I believe it. Last summer we did a lot of rehab, trying to get back to functional. This summer, right from the day we started training, it's been nothing but try to excel at the training and to push the limits. There's no inhibition or concern anymore. It is training to try and maximize your performance. I'm completely mentally and physically liberated from the groin injury and so excited to just resume playing hockey."
The Capitals no doubt need Laich to be at his best, perhaps even better than he's ever been. He can play anywhere in the lineup and provide 50-plus points while playing on the first penalty-kill unit and the second, perhaps even first, power-play unit.
"I need a healthy Brooks Laich," Capitals coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com.
It appears he has one. Skating starts Monday.
"I'm going to hit the ice and take off right away, be ready for camp and be ready for the regular season," Laich said.
"I'm healthy now. I'm back. Let's play some hockey."
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