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Dec 22, 2014
7:00 PM ET
Monday, December 22, 2014
7:00 PM ET
game preview

Capitals' Latta key contributor in fourth-line role

Monday, 12.22.2014 / 1:01 PM

Adam Vingan - Correspondent

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Capitals' Latta key contributor in fourth-line role
Ottawa Senators vs. Washington Capitals

SENATORS (14-13-6) at CAPITALS (16-10-6)


ARLINGTON, Va. -- It was a subtle gesture, though certainly not insignificant.

During a contentious second period between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll attempted to goad Capitals forward Jason Chimera into a fight as they lined up for a neutral-zone faceoff.

Sensing the standoff, Capitals forward Michael Latta, prepared to take the draw, tapped Chimera and lined up next to Boll, fighting the Columbus forward as soon as play resumed.

"With him stepping up, those little things, it goes a long way in the dressing room with the guys," Chimera said. "It just brings up your team. You wouldn't believe how much it does."

Many of Latta's teammates often describe his contributions as sneaky, but they have not been overlooked.

"Little things you do get noticed a lot more by the players," Latta said. "You walk in the room and guys have ice bags or cuts on their face and stuff. I think that stuff really brings a team together and brings a team close."

Latta has been a fourth-line fixture for Washington this season, averaging 8:51 of ice time per game, all but 14 seconds at even strength. He yo-yoed between wing and center, the latter of which he prefers, through the first two months of the season.

He felt that finally sticking at center and remaining in the lineup while more skilled centers Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov alternated as healthy scratches in early December solidified his role as a responsible and feisty forward.

"He does it in subtle ways," coach Barry Trotz said. "He's not going to do it with big points. He's going to do it with sticking up for teammates. He's going to make that good play at an important time."

That is not to say Latta is devoid of offensive talent. His assist on Chimera's first-period goal Thursday, a no-look backhand pass, proved he possesses playmaking ability.

"It has been underrated," Latta said of his skill. "People look at me as more of a grinder-type player who doesn't have the hands and stuff I do.

"This last stretch has been really good, but there's still time to grow. I don't play the last two minutes usually if we're up with the lead. I don't penalty kill. Obviously I'm happy with where I'm at right now, but there's still a lot of room to grow."

The Ottawa Senators, 3-2-1 under coach Dave Cameron since he replaced Paul MacLean earlier this month, own a significant winning streak against Washington, having won seven straight games between the teams by a combined score of 24-11.

The Capitals have not beaten the Senators since Dec. 7, 2011.

Here are the projected lineups:


Clarke MacArthurKyle TurrisMark Stone

Mike HoffmanMika ZibanejadBobby Ryan

Colin GreeningDavid LegwandErik Condra

Milan MichalekJean-Gabriel PageauAlex Chiasson

Chris PhillipsErik Karlsson

Jared CowenCody Ceci

Mark BorowieckiEric Gryba

Craig Anderson

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: Zack Smith (wrist), Chris Neil (knee), Marc Methot (back)


Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromTom Wilson

Brooks LaichEric FehrJoel Ward

Marcus JohanssonEvgeny KuznetsovTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraMichael LattaJay Beagle

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Jack HillenMike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt

Injured: Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: The Capitals recalled Burakovsky from the American Hockey League on Monday. He was scoreless in two games this weekend. … This is Washington's final home game before the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 1.

Who's hot: Hoffman (10 goals) and Stone (eight) are third and fourth among rookie goal scorers, respectively. … Washington is unbeaten in regulation since Dec. 4 with a 6-0-2 record. … In his past two games, Green has the primary assist on a game-winning overtime goal as well as a game-winning goal of his own.

Team Stats

2014-2015 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 04 '15 7:00 PM ET at Senators
Feb 05 '15 7:30 PM ET at Senators
Dec 22 '14 7:00 PM ET at Capitals
K. Turris3371623-82222
E. Karlsson3371623-141022
B. Ryan3071421+41020
C. MacArthur329817-62243
M. Zibanejad319817+0620
M. Hoffman3010616+13402
M. Stone318816+5610
A. Chiasson307815-64130
D. Legwand336814-61450
M. Michalek29369-7410
C. Ceci33189+2000
C. Neil28437+34910
J. Cowen26257-62301
C. Lazar27167+0800
E. Gryba33055+56200
E. Condra19224+0900
P. Wiercioch17134+41801
M. Borowiecki28044+15800
Z. Smith27213-71200
C. Phillips26022-11000
M. Methot2011+0200
C. Greening13000-6600
J. Pageau3000+0000
C. Anderson208-8-4496962.43.930
R. Lehner136-5-2394292.93.909
N. Backstrom32102434+32202
A. Ovechkin32151227+72464
J. Carlson3242024+121410
M. Johansson329918+0011
J. Ward3210717+2632
T. Brouwer3210616+31541
M. Green2441115+41011
A. Burakovsky264913+0620
E. Fehr297512+6813
M. Niskanen3221012-41220
E. Kuznetsov303811+5620
T. Wilson22279-16700
J. Beagle27448-1801
J. Chimera31358+02200
K. Alzner32257-2600
B. Orpik32077+73000
B. Laich17325-2200
M. Latta24044+52900
N. Schmidt31033+31000
L. O'Brien13112+42300
C. Brown5101+1200
J. Hillen9011+0200
B. Holtby2714-7-5597092.29.917
J. Peters72-3-1221723.28.872