Tom Poti impresses in return to pro hockey

A worker appears on the ice as logos are placed and the lines painted in preparation for the Washington Capitals upcoming NHL hockey season at Verizon Center, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – If Tom Poti’s first professional hockey game in more than two years is any indication, the 35-year-old’s attempt at an NHL comeback could be the Capitals’ early season feel good story.

Poti, who last played with the Caps on Jan.12, 2011, was loaned to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League Sunday morning for a conditioning assignment. By Sunday night, Poti had not only suited up in the Bears’ 5-0 win over the Connecticut Whale, but the veteran defenseman had a power play goal and three shots on goal to boot.

“He was a consummate professional in how he managed his game,” Bears head coach Mark French told reporters in Hershey.

“I thought he was very efficient, he avoided contact and you can see his overall skill level, so I thought it was a very successful comeback for him.”

Poti has missed the Capitals’ last 143 games due to a groin injury and a broken pelvis, but the veteran of more than 800 NHL games returned to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex last week and declared himself healthy. His passing the team’s mandated physical on Saturday was all the proof he needed.

“The last week-and-a-half to two weeks, I’ve had no pain at all and I’ve kind of been able to do everything out there that I’ve wanted to do on the ice,” Poti said Thursday at KCI.

“It’s just a matter of me getting comfortable out there on the ice again kind of getting the rust off.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Poti can spend up to 14 days in the minor leagues on a rehab assignment. The Bears play four games from Jan. 13-20, including the AHL’s Outdoor Classic on Sunday, Jan. 20 against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins at Hershey Park.

“I think I’d be alright just kind of jumping in,” said Poti.

“Sometimes it’s better, as I’ve experienced in the past, to just throw yourself into the fire- you learn quicker that way and you kind of get used to things better


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