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Capitals' Tom Poti taking a crack at a return to the ice

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Pelvic injury sidelined

defenseman for two years

It was almost exactly two years ago that defenseman Tom Poti last played a game for the Capitals. It appeared he would never wear their uniform again.

But Poti was all smiles Thursday at Kettler Iceplex. He was back skating with his teammates, the groin injury and pelvic fracture that derailed his career apparently behind him. Whether Poti, 35, still can play at a high enough level to crack the NHL roster remains to be seen, however.

"All I'm asking for is a chance. I don't want anything special, no handouts, no nothing," Poti said. "I just want to go out and play. And if they think I can play and think I can help the team, then I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

Twice early in the 2010-11 season Poti was sidelined by a groin injury. It was nothing new. He had dealt with one in some form periodically throughout his career. But during a Dec. 21, 2010, game against the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center, he and Dainius Zubrus crashed into the boards early in the second period on a fresh sheet of ice. Poti felt a pop and figured it was his groin again. But this time it actually was a pelvic fracture -- something that took weeks to diagnose and then only after meeting with a specialist. He played just four more games that season before calling it quits early in a Jan. 12 contest at Tampa Bay.

Poti tried to return for the Stanley Cup playoffs later that season. But by continuing to skate with the fracture to stay in shape, he eventually did more harm than good. He has no regrets, though. Washington was a legitimate title contender that season, and Poti felt he had to roll the dice. But it didn't work out. It wasn't until this summer, after long periods of rest and inactivity, that he started feeling like himself again and this fall that he felt confident enough to test it skating with other NHL players in his hometown of Boston during the lockout.

Poti is a 12-year NHL veteran. For three years in a row he averaged more than 21 minutes per game on the Caps' blueline, a steady presence on a team that at the time was filled with young defensemen like Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner. He contributed at the offensive end, too, with 29 points in 2007-08 and 24 points in 2009-10. He would be an instant upgrade at the position -- if he finds his old form. That is a question Washington needs answered quickly.

"[Poti] plays that style of game where he doesn't have to exert himself too much to get the job done, and that's something you can really, really learn from," Alzner said. "That's kind of the way I like to play as well. You see a lot of guys that go out there and they go a million miles an hour and they tire out and they make mistakes. Tom doesn't do that. It's nice to be able to see how he can slow it down but still make the smart, simple plays."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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