Matt Hendricks’ value to Capitals on rise as gloves drop

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Hendricks knows the drill, though. Thornton is a heavyweight fighter and Hendricks is more of a middleweight, but he knew it was up to him to respond.

“I felt, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got to do at this point in the game,’ ” Hendricks said. “They wanted me to answer the bell for fighting their top-line guy, and I think they know that he asked me to go. But against them, that’s what you’ve got to do in those situations.”

Hendricks only had one more shift the rest of the game, but the Bruins wanted more blood.

“You’ve got a guy like Thornton trying to get you to go at the end of the game. You kind of surround him like a pack of wolves a little bit,” center Jay Beagle said. “That’s a tough role. He handled it really well.”

Hendricks handled it because he’s used to it. The 31-year-old climbed the ranks in the sport with his fists, and had to once be told by Colorado Avalanche teammate and friend Cody McLeod that he didn’t need to fight so much.

Oates agrees with that notion, but Hendricks isn’t afraid to dig back into his fighting past every once in a while when the situation calls for it.

“He’s got a lot of heart and plays really hard,” Beagle said. “He’s obviously a great team guy, everyone knows that, and a great guy to have in your locker room. He steps up every night.”

Sometimes stepping up isn’t at all about fighting, killing penalties or winning faceoffs. Hendricks, an unrestricted free agent this summer, has shown his versatility in filling in on the first line and scoring goals.

Hendricks already has as many goals as he recorded all of last season (four) and relishes the opportunity to get first-line minutes.

“It’s not hard. It’s fun to play more,” he said. “I think Adam puts me out there in certain situations when he’s hoping for a spark. … It’s just about trying to get opportunities, and when your number is called you’ve got to go.”

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