The good-natured ribbing of Brooks Laich began the moment he stepped on the ice shortly before Tuesday's 10 a.m. practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
"He bleeds red!" shouted one teammate.
"Game day!" chimed another.
"Tweet that!" yelled a third.
Less than 48 hours after leaving the Verizon Center on crutches and strapped in a left knee brace after taking a big hit from Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, Laich was on the ice Tuesday looking ready, willing and able to play in tonight's crucial Southeast Division showdown with the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
"He looked good out there and skated well," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said . "He skated and we'll see how he feels in five or six hours."
The grin on Laich's face appeared to answer any doubts about whether he would play.
"I hope so," Laich told a crowd of reporters. "I felt good on the ice. Turning, pivoting, everything felt pretty good. "Usually, the decision isn't up to the player. It's the coaching staff -- you have to try to convince them sometimes. Hopefully, we'll see tonight."
Laich said when he woke up on Monday, his knee felt better than expected. But despite his pleas, he was instructed not to practice. A "very positive" exam with an orthopedist Monday afternoon showed no significant damage to Laich's knee and when he woke up without considerable pain on Tuesday he arrived at Kettler with the intent of playing tonight.
"It means he faked his injury last game," defenseman Karl Alzner joked. "It shows what kind of guy he is. It wasn't even a question to not go on the ice today. He said it yesterday, and we were all laughing at him because he was hobbling around.
"Today, he goes out there and shocks everybody that he can even cross over. At the same time, you have to be careful about how tough you are. You have to be smart about it."
The Capitals trail the Panthers by one point in the airtight Southeast Division, but Laich said it's important for him not to jeopardize his health for one game.
"I know the position we're in, but I also understand there's a lot of hockey left in the year," Laich said. "I'm going to try to play if I can, but if I think I'm going to do more damage ... that's what the appointment was for yesterday, to rule anything like that out."
Laich practiced on a line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin and Jay Beagle skated hard after practice, which suggests Laich will start on the fourth line tonight if his knee responds well to the morning skate.
Laich was asked if the crutches he used to leave the arena on Sunday were just a decoy.
"Yeah," he said. "Those were more to appease the minds of the trainers."
Even if Laich does not play tonight, the fact his injury is not serious is a relief to a team already saddled by injuries to center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green. Laich, 28, has missed just four games in his seven-year career with the Caps.
"Every team needs a team full of guys like him," Alzner said. "He's one of a select few, and we're fortunate he's on our team."
Laich said he's simply doing what he loves to do.
"I want to play every game," he said. "Tonight could be the most important game of our year. Everybody seems to keep winning. It's a big week for us, and I want to be in there for sure."
The Capitals also received good news on the Green front. Green skated for the first time in four days before the morning skate. He had spent the previous three days in the weight room.