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Capitals focused on winning without Laich

Monday, 02.06.2012 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Capitals focused on winning without Laich
Brooks Laich was scheduled to see doctors Monday, where he would learn more about the knee injury he suffered in Sunday's game.
WASHINGTON -- Brooks Laich did not practice Monday with the Washington Capitals, and the team will learn the severity of his left knee injury after a doctor visit later in the day.

Laich was helped off the ice with eight minutes to play in the second period Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center during a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. He was hit by Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg behind the net, and left the arena after the game on crutches, with his knee in a brace.

"He was walking on it, so he was fine," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He wants to play. He's day-to-day and it's not major, so it's just day to day and we'll see how he goes."

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Laich has been a versatile stalwart in the Washington lineup during this era of great regular-season success. He has missed just four games in the past five seasons, and that was only because of a fluke bounce of a puck that caught him in the face during a practice.

He has played through pain before, specifically a broken ankle during the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs that he later revealed during the audio documentary "Hockey Diaries: Ready to Play." Laich didn’t even tell the coaching staff about the injury at the time.

"He's a warrior and he wants to play and that's what you like about guys like that," Hunter said. "It creates an opportunity for other players to step up."

Added Mike Knuble: "Brooks plays in a lot of situations and he’s been playing good hockey of late. He's been a big factor in games lately. It is frustrating and it is frustrating for him because he's the type of guy who will try to play through anything he can. We hope for the best news, that he's not going to miss a lot of time, but nobody knows yet."

Laich has evolved into one of the top role players in the League, and he is an indispensable component for the Capitals because he fills so many different roles. He made himself into a solid second-line forward during the Bruce Boudreau era, but he can play up and down the lineup and any of the three forward positions.

He's even filled in on defense a few times when the Capitals have needed him in emergency situations.

"That's the thing -- you don't try and replace him," Troy Brouwer said. "Everyone has got to bring a little bit more in their game. It is not like we can tell someone to be a Brooks Laich. Guys have to help out on draws, guys have to help out on in the (defensive) zone. He's a good, well-rounded player and guys are going to have to pick up where he's out.

"(Jeff Halpern) is going to have to take a couple more (defensive)-zone draws, and we're going to need guys to play on the (penalty kill) who are willing to block shots, and I know we have guys that are itching to do that."

Laich signed a six-year, $27 million contract in the offseason, and he has spent the first season of that deal almost exclusively at center. He has been the team's most consistent player -- especially with top center Nicklas Backstrom's absence because of a concussion now stretching into a second month.
"That's the thing -- you don't try and replace him. Everyone has got to bring a little bit more in their game. It is not like we can tell someone to be a Brooks Laich. Guys have to help out on draws, guys have to help out on in the (defensive) zone. He's a good, well-rounded player and guys are going to have to pick up where he's out."
-- Troy Brouwer
The Capitals are going to need Backstrom and Laich if they want to experience more postseason success than they've had in the past four seasons. For now, Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault likely will center the top two lines for a critical Southeast Division showdown Tuesday against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.

"It is tough. He's one of the leaders on this team," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "We miss Backstrom, (Mike) Green and right now (Laich). It is tough situation for us, but right now we have to be ready to play much harder without these guys. We still have a pretty good team, and we still have players who can win the game.

"I think right now me and (Alexander Semin), (Johansson), Brouwer and (Jason Chimera) -- now we have to play like we didn't play this year yet. Again, right it is now tough and it is going to be tough, but I like when it is tough. You have to show your character and you have to show your leadership. ... In this situation, you can't do nothing. We're not going to cry or wait for help. It is all about us. We have to be together and play like a team."
Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery