Poti rejoins Capitals, could play first game in two years Saturday

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

Capitals defenseman Tom Poti’s comeback attempt took another step forward on Thursday when the team recalled him after just two games from a conditioning stint at AHL Hershey.

Poti last played in an NHL game on Jan. 12, 2011 in Tampa Bay. There is a chance, according to general manager George McPhee, that Poti could make his return in that same city this Saturday when Washington travels to Tampa Bay to open the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.

“He might be able to play,” McPhee said.

Even the chance has Poti excited. The 35-year-old scored a goal in his first AHL game on Sunday and then got to play in his hometown of Worcester, Mass. when Hershey traveled there on Wednesday night. Poti had “25 or 30” family members and friends cheering him on there. Timing is still an issue and may remain so for some time. But Poti is pain free and that was enough for Washington to recall him.

The team’s roster crunch has eased in recent days with defenseman Cam Schilling being reassigned to Hershey and forward Tom Wilson returning to his junior club, the Plymouth Whalers. Injuries to defenseman Dmitry Orlov (upper body) and Brooks Laich (groin) take away the remaining competition. Laich did skate on his own Thursday, but has yet to go through a full practice with his teammates. It is unlikely he’d be ready to play Saturday. That would leave 23 spots for 23 players with Poti back in the fold.

Poti has consistently throughout a brief training camp expressed confidence that he could jump right into an NHL game – though that decision will be made after a final tune-up practice on Friday or on Saturday morning, McPhee said. He was able to effectively deal with contact during his two games with Hershey and, while the NHL is a different animal, believes he is ready to take the next step.

“[Contact] was one hurdle I hadn’t overcome yet. I took a few hits, and it didn’t affect me at all,” Poti said. “So I kind of crossed that hurdle a little bit. Obviously, I haven’t taken any huge hits, but you never know. You try to avoid those in the game anyway, so like I said, just kind of taking it day by day right now.”

Added McPhee: “He’s got a burst, he doesn’t hesitate at all. He does everything he needs to do. We wanted to get him up here and see how it looks. So with the health issues out of the way, we think, for now, the issue was timing. And he said that my timing’s off a little bit and he expected it would be. But everybody’s timing’s off up here right now, so it’d be a good time to do it.”

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