SUNRISE, Fla. -- Dont misunderstand Brooks Laich.
He gets the significance of the Capitals' being in first place in the Southeast Division, even if it is just one point that separates them from the Florida Panthers, the team they face tonight in Sunrise, Fla.
I saw were in third in the Eastern Conference standings, Laich said. You want to win the division, but there are bigger goals around here -- at least they were at the start of the season. And from my perspective, they havent changed.
Laich is not alone in his optimism. Alex Ovechkin actually said the words we and Stanley Cup in the same sentence on Monday.
The immediate goal is for the Caps to stay in the hunt for the division lead until Ovechkin returns from his suspension on Saturday and Mike Green and Nick Backstrom return from their injuries, hopefully later this month.
The good sign is there is still room for improvement, Laich said. Our best hockey, we havent played it.
We need to find a balance between being offensive and defensive, and we havent been able to strike that perfect balance. In Montreal a 3-0 win before the All-Star break, we defended when didnt have the puck and when we had it we tried to score. There's a lot of line juggling right now. At some point, well need to come to rink knowing our roles and who youre going to play with.