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Goals down, Laich isn’t

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When Boyd Gordon enters the Washington Capitals dressing room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, he makes a sharp right turn to find his stall.

For the typically reserved Gordon, having his locker in the opposite corner from Brooks Laich can be a good thing some days.

"I try to stay away from him and [Matt Bradley] as much as possible. That's basically what I do," Gordon joked. "This is the quiet end, and that's the noisy side. No, every team needs a couple of guys like that. He makes things fun, and everyone enjoys coming to the rink when they're having fun."

Laich is definitely one of the dominant personalities on the Caps - always boisterous, always chirping at teammates about who won or lost a game at the end of practice. There is an eternally positive vibe in the Bradley-Laich-David Steckel corner, even if trespassers should be wary of some inevitable good-natured ribbing.

Dating back through the minors, juniors and even to his peewee days, Laich said that has always been part of his personality.

"I care about the guys in here. I truly and thoroughly love what I do, and I love the situation we have here," Laich said. "It is the same game we played when we were 5 years old, so how hard can it be?"

The always upbeat Laich is mired in a bit of a goal-scoring slump. The 25-year-old forward hasn't scored a goal in the last 10 games and has only five in 29 contests this season. After the success he had last season, netting a career-best 21 goals, being on pace for 14 this year is a problem for a player with increased expectations.

"I'm not yet at the point where I'm really worried, but I think I can produce more," Laich said. "I've had a lot of chances. The one in Toronto hit the post, I had a short-handed chance against the Islanders - sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't. As long as the chances are still there - I had a talk with Bruce about it and he said, 'Just keep shooting the puck, keep moving your legs and go to the net.' Eventually one is going to go, and I hope it is sooner rather than later."

For Laich, his contributions go far beyond goals and assists - though he is on pace to nearly double his career high in assists. One of his greatest strengths is his versatility. Laich began the season as the team's second-line left wing, but he has played just about everywhere since.

He has seen time at all three forward spots and on both the second and third lines - not to mention his occasional moonlighting as a defenseman in emergency situations.

"He's obviously a great asset to have," Gordon said. "If someone gets hurt or they want to switch the lines around, he can do that. He's going to score, and he's always creating stuff with work ethic."

Added Laich: "It is almost like a cursed blessing. You never really have the same two linemates to build stability, which is a nice thing to build chemistry. That's the curse part, but the blessing part is you are awarded so many opportunities for ice time. Coach can always look down the bench and say, 'OK, I need someone for this role. He can do that job.'"

Laich is also one of the team's top shot blockers, leading all Caps forwards with 24. One game he lost his stick and managed to block two shots. In another contest he took a blast off his leg - and despite barely being able to put any weight on it - was able to break up a pass and knock the puck out of the defensive zone.

While Sergei Fedorov, Gordon and David Steckel all have skill taking faceoffs, Laich has won 54.9 percent of his draws this season. He has helped most with special teams faceoffs, leading the team in both power-play draws (57.1 percent) and when the Caps are on the penalty kill (64.6 percent).

"He does so many things for us," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We know he's going to score goals, but last year it took the last 25 games for him to catch fire. He's just a great guy to have doing a lot of things."

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