It’s a quieter Capitals locker room these days, now that Matt Hendricks has moved on.
No more barks of “Atta boy, Beags!”
No more loud references to his teammates being "Wagons," as in "Circle the wagons."
No more heroic races to the trainer’s room for stitches so he can get back to the ice without anyone noticing he left.
In a perfect world Hendricks, 32, probably would have been happy to retire as a member of the Capitals.
Tonight, he’ll play against them for the first time since signing a four-year, $7.4 million contract with the Nashville Predators on July 5.
“I’m definitely happy for him,” said Capitals forward Eric Fehr, who played parts of two seasons with Hendricks. “He put in a lot of time and worked really hard to get to this league.
“He got a good deal and hopefully he enjoys his new team. Guys like him, who are such character players and work so hard every day, they’re fun to have around.”
After five seasons toiling in the American Hockey League, Hendricks signed a free agent contract with the Caps in 2010 and established himself as an everyday NHL player under Bruce Boudreau.
He was one of the Caps’ toughest players and best penalty killers under Dale Hunter but saw his ice time diminish under Adam Oates last season. The Capitals set their salary limit for Hendricks and when he decided he could make more on the open market, he became a free agent and was rewarded with a four-year deal with the Predators that pays him $1.85 million a season.
“We would have loved to keep him around, but maybe he played so well he deserved a little more,” Fehr said.
Troy Brouwer agreed, saying he’s looking forward to catching up with Hendricks tonight at Verizon Center.
“It’s always nice to see an old teammate, especially a good guy like Hendy, who gave a lot to this hockey club over the years,” Brouwer said. “He was very well liked. He’s got that loud personality, but a real friendly guy who’d do anything for you. Guys miss him around here, but guys realize it’s a business.”
Pre-game notes: Caps left wing Brooks Laich sat out practice Wednesday with tightness in his left hip flexor but is still aiming to be in the lineup Monday night in Chicago. After abandoning the Eric Fehr-at-center experiment, Adam Oates will try Marty Erat there tonight with Jason Chimera on his left and Fehr on his right. Filip Forsberg, the 19-year-old prospect traded from the Caps for Erat, has a lower body injury and will not play tonight. He is expected to make the Predators' opening night roster. ... Adam Oates said that while he may watch the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony on Oct. 1, he think his players would be better served "chillin'" in the locker room during the 30-minute pre-game ceremony.