Pothier rejoins Capitals lineup 14 months after concussion

WASHINGTON – Brian Pothier, who hasn’t played in the NHL for more than a year because of vision problems resulting from a concussion, was recalled by the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

The 31-year-old defenceman suffered a concussion at Boston on Jan. 3, 2008, and had headaches and dizziness for nearly a year, putting his career in serious doubt. Finally in December, he was diagnosed with a stigmatism in his eye and was fitted with glasses, and that’s made all the difference.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Pothier told reporters in a conference call from Atlanta, where the Capitals play the Thrashers on Monday.

Pothier will wear contacts on the ice and glasses in the locker room. He does daily eye exercises, such as tracking a ball on a string, to help strengthen his vision. He recently saw his first live action since the concussion, a four-game stint with Hershey of the AHL.

“I took a few hits and I actually gave a couple,” Pothier said. “I was actually excited about it.

“I was relieved. You don’t know what to expect. Once you get hit, you realize you’re not damaged goods. Everything still works well. Now it’s let the instincts take over and let’s play.”

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The concussion was the fourth of Pothier’s career, and he said there were people who advised him to think twice about playing again.

“Everyone has their opinions,” Pothier said. “Most people I come across have been real excited.

“It’s obvious there are risks, and you know the risks that are involved. Some people have felt led to talk about those risks a lot, and some people have said, ‘Great, go for it.”‘

Pothier has played in seven NHL seasons. In his only full season with in Washington in 2006-07, he led all Capitals defencemen in points (28) and assists (25) and led the team in ice time (23 minutes 59 seconds per game) while playing in 72 games.

In other moves, the Capitals recalled goaltender Simeon Varlamov from Hershey and assigned goaltender Michal Neuvirth to Hershey.