Matt Hendricks doesn't get a whole lot of playing time anymore. Under coach Dale Hunter, he has eclipsed the 10-minute mark just twice.
But on Wednesday night, Hendricks made the most of his 7:44 with a fight, a shot off the post and a spectacular shift that made his presence felt in the Washington Capitals' victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins despite no points.
"He's a guy that doesn't show up on the score sheet too often, but he's one of those guys that brings it every night," winger Jason Chimera said. "Sometimes he doesn't play as much as he should. You can't put a price on those guys."
In a game against Matt Cooke, who at his best is a premier agitator, Hendricks had the sandpaper and annoyance going in his game in a great way for the Caps.
"He was kind of a nuisance all night for them. He was hard to play against tonight. Whether you had his fight in the first period and then he's physical and buzzing around and almost made the game 2-0 there and had a tremendous shift," forward Mike Knuble said. "He was fun to watch tonight."
Hendricks' best shift came in the third period when he clanked one off the iron behind Marc-Andre Fleury as he and his linemates grinded down the Penguins. He was prominent in the puck possession as Pittsburgh couldn't get out of its own zone for a good minute or so.
"You can hem a team in there, especially playing back-to-back nights, it's tough. I've been there. It's tough to move your legs; tough to get the puck out," Hendricks said. "I thought we had energy there, we took advantage of it. We had some good chances, some good opportunities. Unfortunately we didn't get one."
That almost didn't matter. The way Tomas Vokoun (30 saves on 30 shots) was playing, one goal earlier in the night by Chimera was enough, and Hendricks' shot off the post and subsequent offensive zone domination fired up the entire arena.
"It was really good because it got the building into it. It helped the bench. You see a guy battling and tried his best — he doesn't get a ton of ice time all the time — but he was out there and feeling it, feeling the flow a little bit," Knuble said.
But it didn't start then; it started just 2:19 in when he fought Craig Adams and emerged with a takedown victory.
"When Hendy makes that good fight for us it just pumps the guys up," said Chimera, who scored later in the period.
Hendricks lamented not scoring on the shot that hit the post, but that shift and his play all night and all season makes teammates quick to praise him.
"We're happy the way he's playing and the way he's working," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It's just unfortunate that it's not going in. But it's definitely not a result of bad play."
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