- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2013

Mikhail Grabovski has scored 91 goals and recorded 117 assists the past five seasons. Clearly, he has skills.

One word, he said, drives it all.

“Emotion,” Grabovski said shortly after practicing with the Capitals for the first time following his free-agent signing with the team. “I’m an emotional guy. I play with emotion, with speed, with energy.”

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It is the emotion that stands out. That can be a good thing, when it translates into a productive center who isn’t afraid to dig pucks out of corners, who can control the puck and quickly get it to the right place. That can be a bad thing, when it translates into a player who may get frustrated too much, who may lash out when he isn’t happy.

What are the Capitals getting with Grabovski, the 29-year-old Belarusian they signed to a one-year, $3 million deal to be their second-line center?

Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski celebrates after a goal against Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, top, late in the third period to tie the NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, Oct. 30, 2009. Buffalo won in overtime 3-2.  (AP Photo/Don Heupel)
Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski celebrates after a goal against Buffalo ... more >

Is he the guy who was frustrated by his use last season in Toronto? The one who finally exploded when the Maple Leafs waived him in July and called coach Randy Carlyle an idiot modified by an expletive in an interview with TSN.ca?

Or is he the guy who had 51 goals and 57 assists the previous two seasons?

Is he the one emotion makes into a sparkplug or into a hothead?

The Capitals are banking on the sparkplug as they open the 2013-14 season Tuesday night in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Grabovski will anchor a line that will include wingers Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich, a line that could be very dangerous if all three can maintain a high level.

Early returns are promising. The 5-foot-11 Grabovski had a goal and seven assists in four preseason games.

“He’s going to be a great addition for us,” Laich said. “On the ice, you see first his speed takes over. He’s got great hands and he’s got an underrated shot. I think once he gets more comfortable with the puck and his linemates, he’s very capable of making plays for himself.”

Said Brouwer, “It seems like he skates and sees the ice pretty well.”

All good so far. But Grabovski hasn’t been around the Caps a month yet. If things weren’t glowing at this stage, there would really be a problem. How will things be when there’s the inevitable rough patch every player and team hit over the course of an 82-game season?

The Caps were comfortable enough to take that chance, and they think things will be just fine.

“We don’t want to put too much pressure on him,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “I’m sure he’s very motivated. He’s not happy about what happened to him at the end of [last] year. We’re just looking for him to play good hockey for us.”

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