The Washington Times - March 19, 2013, 02:57PM

PITTSBURGH | Asked about the Washington Capitals’ struggles during this shortened season, Sidney Crosby said he and the Pittsburgh Penguins have the same mentality.

“I think everyone’s pretty much playing desperate hockey,” the Penguins’ captain said.


According to Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, not desperate enough. Asked about forward Brooks Laich making his season debut Tuesday night after missing the first 28 games with a groin injury, Holtby questioned the team’s intensity.

“Hopefully it’ll help our team. The main part hopefully it helps our intensity,” Holtby said. “We haven’t been even close to intense enough this year. And a guy like him, he brings it every day and I hope he can be a big leader on this team because right now we need it.”

Laich was chosen as one of Washington’s alternate captains at the start of the season, along with Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.

“He’s obviously one of our leaders, he wears an ‘A,’ ” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He’s been around a long time, and the guys really respect his hard work and how he approaches the game.

Holtby hopes he and his teammates can go into playoff mode now, given the tough stakes they face to qualify for the actual playoffs. He wasn’t able to explain the lack of intensity.

“I don’t know. That’s just all of us,” he said. “I mean everyone can see it. You can tell it’s just not there yet. … Hopefully it comes.”

Prompted with Holtby’s comments, forward Matt Hendricks said he didn’t necessarily agree.

“I agree with we haven’t had the intensity on the road that we need. I think the starts on the road haven’t been where they need to be,” Hendricks said. “We’re trying to feel teams out a little bit too much. We just need to come in and focus on our game, play hard, win the board battles, play gritty.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be a team that kind of shies and plays on their heels. We need to come out on our toes and if we’ve got to skate through people to get the puck, that’s what we got to do.”

Hendricks credited fans at Verizon Center for some strong starts at home. On the road, he said the Caps haven’t been quick enough to set the tone.

“I think we need to dictate our game right away,” he said. “There’s no reason to sit back on the road and try to play a comfortable game. We need to be intense, we need to be physical, we need to do things that make us successful at home.”