It was a small and innocent gesture, but one that likely goes a long way in the opinion of most hockey players.
In the sweaty satisfaction of the Capitals locker room following their 4-0 victory over the Florida Panthers Tuesday night, Caps owner Ted Leonsis stopped center Brooks Laich, shook his hand and said, Im proud of you.
Laich had just played 9 minutes, 28 seconds on a left knee that two days earlier would not allow him to place weight on it. He finished Tuesday night without any points or any shots and managed just a pair of hits.
But his teammates felt his presence nonetheless.
Hes a big part of our team, said Capitals center Mathieu Perreault, and to see him battle through and get in the lineup shows guys hes got a lot of character and its going to take a lot to take him down.
Laich took 15 shifts and played most of the night on a fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin, along with 1:47 of shorthanded time. He was also 7-for-8 in the faceoff circle.
Brooksie took some big faceoffs, Caps coach Dale Hunter said. I tried to spot him on shifts. He played hard and won big faceoffs when we needed them.
After the game Laich smiled when asked how he was feeling.
I feel great, he said. Two more points, sitting in third place and when we wake up tomorrow wed be in the playoffs if they started now. I feel pretty good.