Troy Brouwer spent some of his time with the Chicago Blackhawks on a line with All-Stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Last season, he was the third part of the Washington Capitals' top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
On the Caps' second line this year, Brouwer has 16 goals and would be on pace to shatter his 82-game career high of 23. Credit center Mike Ribeiro and a different role.
"This year more than any other year I've been the shooter on the line," Brouwer said. "I think I'm just getting a lot more opportunities to shoot. Ribs tells me never to pass it back to him if I've got an opportunity. When you got a guy that you know doesn't have to have the puck back to score and wants to score but doesn't need to score to be successful, then it makes my job easier. And when I get a look, I shoot."
Seven of Brouwer's 16 goals through 41 games have come on the power play. Most of those the 27-year-old right wing fired home from the right faceoff circle.
"He's got a good midrange shot there and he's a big guy, he plays that position well," coach Adam Oates said. "That's a position I like on a power play, and I think when you get confidence it trickles into other parts of your game."
Brouwer is ranked second on the Caps in goals and 15th in the NHL going into Monday's games. His three-year, $11 million contract goes into effect next season.
Brouwer's offensive production before Ovechkin and Backstrom got on a roll kept the Caps from falling completely out of the playoff race. He has been a staple on the second line with Ribeiro and a rotating cast of characters on left wing.
Ribeiro is hoping Martin Erat brings some consistency on the left side, but Brouwer's presence on right wing is strong.
"Brouwer's a guy who plays well his position; you can rely on him for defensive positioning," Ribeiro said. "But at the end of the day, he has a great shot. And every time he's above that goal line, if he has a chance to shoot, he should shoot."
Left wing Marcus Johansson left Monday's practice about 10 minutes early, but Oates said he was OK and is expected to play Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Johansson tweaked a lower-body injury, according to a team spokesman.
"He just said he was a little sore, so I said, 'Get off,' because I knew we were going to do a little skate at the end," Oates said.
Right wing Joel Ward "was just cruising around" before practice, Oates said. Ward is expected to miss a fourth straight game Tuesday with a badly bruised left knee. There is no time frame for his return.
Forward Brooks Laich has not skated since suffering a lower-body injury April 4 that Oates said affected his groin injury.
"I don't know how long it's going to be," Oates said. "We're still evaluating and talking and all that."
Asked about the possibility of Laich having surgery, Oates said he would have a better answer Tuesday.
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