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Maple Leafs' Laich to play first game vs. Capitals

Veteran forward had spent 12 seasons with Washington

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (21-30-10) at CAPITALS (46-12-4)
TV: 7 p.m. ET; SN, CSN-DC, NHL-TV

WASHINGTON -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Brooks Laich will play his first game against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

Laich played all but two of his 743 NHL regular-season games during 12 seasons with the Capitals. He was traded to the Maple Leafs on Sunday, along with defenseman Connor Carrick and a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft for forward Daniel Winnik. Laich made his Maple Leafs debut Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning

"I know there are going to be maybe a few emotions but I can't let that get to me," Laich said. "I can't run around, I can't be hyped up. I've got to conserve some energy and just use the hockey sense and play the game."

The Capitals are poised to make a run for the Stanley Cup and Laich said he's disappointed he won't have the chance to achieve something he worked toward during his time in Washington.

"It hasn't really sunk in fully yet," Laich said. "I haven't digested through all of the emotion; I've been through some of it. I have such an empty feeling that I never got the ultimate goal. Before my time in D.C. ended I really wanted to do it with Alex [Ovechkin], I really wanted to do it with [Nicklas Backstrom] and really wanted to do it with Mike Green, who unfortunately wasn't back this year. Those guys meant a lot to me."

Winnik will make his debut for the Capitals on Wednesday, coach Barry Trotz said, even though he hasn't practiced with his new team yet. He doesn't have nearly the emotional connection to the Maple Leafs that Laich had to the Capitals. It was the second time in as many years the Maple Leafs traded Winnik around the deadline; last season he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I've played other teams I've been traded on shortly after being traded so I guess it's kind of nice to just get it out of the way," Winnik said.

After finishing last season with the Penguins, Winnik signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015.

Despite joining the Capitals so late in the season, Winnik said he's not worried about fitting in with his new team.

"I think a lot of teams are very inviting to the players," he said. "I think that's the one thing that's great about our sport. Everyone wants the new guy to feel welcome so I'll just sit back and see the energy of the guys and how everyone communicates and try to fit in where I can."

It's likely Winnik plays on Washington's fourth line.

The Capitals did not have a morning skate but backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer is expected to start.

Here are the projected lineups:


Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Nikita Soshnikov

Michael Grabner - William Nylander - Zach Hyman

Colin Greening - Ben Smith - Brooks Laich

Kasperi Kapanen - Peter Holland - Brad Boyes

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado

Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick

Jonathan Bernier

Garret Sparks

Scratched: Byron Froese, PA Parenteau

Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Joffrey Lupul (middle body), James van Riemsdyk (foot fracture), Jared Cowen (hip tightness), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Milan Michalek (upper body)


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Jay Beagle

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov

Nate Schmidt - Mike Weber

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Injured: John Carlson (lower body)

Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta

Status update: Carlson is expected to return in three weeks and play at least the final 10 games of the regular season.

Who's hot: Backstrom has three points, all assists, in the past two games. … Kadri has six points in his past five games.

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