ARLINGTON, Va. -- It was a subtle gesture, though certainly significant.
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's switched between wing and center, the latter of which he prefers, through the first two months of the season.
He felt that 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 since Dave Cameron replaced Paul MacLean as coach earlier this month, have won seven straight games against Washington by a combined score of 24-11.
The Capitals have not beaten the Senators since Dec. 7, 2011.
Here are the projected lineups:
Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Mark Stone
Mike Hoffman - Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan
Colin Greening - David Legwand - Erik Condra
Milan Michalek - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Alex Chiasson
Chris Phillips - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki - Eric Gryba
Scratched: Patrick Wiercioch
Injured: Zack Smith (wrist), Chris Neil (knee), Marc Methot (back)
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Michael Latta - Jay Beagle
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen - Mike Green
Scratched: Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt
Injured: Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Status report: The Capitals recalled Burakovsky and Volpatti from the American Hockey League on Monday. Burakovsky was scoreless in two AHL games during the 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.