For better or worse, Mikhail Grabovski brings emotional game to Caps

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Happy hockey leads to good hockey and Laich thinks his new linemate is in a place where he can stay happy.

“Off the ice, he fits in great,” Laich said. “He’s very talkative, a good guy, likes to joke around. He was really on board right from the start. He keeps saying how much better he likes things oer here over previous places he’s been. I think we have a very welcoming locker room, but he’s really opened up already.”

And the emotion, Laich added, shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing.

“I’d say that’s great. I will play with a passionate player any day,” Laich said. “It means he cares. I think sometimes people underestimate him because of his size, but he’s a feisty little devil. I’ve played against him. Second, third opportunities, he’ll dig his nose in there. He doesn’t give up on plays. That’s the kind of attitude we want to have around here.”

That’s the type of attitude Grabovski promises he’ll bring. He said all he wants to know is what is expected of him and he’ll do his best to deliver.

“Every day of my life,” he said, “I try to be better and better. I tell myself all the time I can be better. I try to work my [butt] off, is that how you say it in English?”

That’s it indeed. Grabovski’s command of the language is quite good, which makes on- and off-ice communication much easier. He knows all forms of English, as his summer tirade against his former coach showed.

“Everybody sees the bad words,” Grabovksi said, chuckling a bit. “They don’t see the good words. I say lots of good words, too. I try to help every player who ever play with me. Wherever the coach puts me in the lineup, I try to do my best.”

He said the Capitals made it clear they wanted him and had a plan for him. He wouldn’t be left wondering about his role. When center Mike Ribeiro signed with Phoenix in the offseason, the Caps had a glaring hole and they’re calling on Grabovski to fill it.

“This is a team that really wants me,” he said. “That is important to a player, to know that someone likes you. You can play better for this team. Secondly, I like that atmosphere in the rink. You play against Washington, it is always a great place to play hockey. They have a lot of players who are great players. You can see guys are hungry to play and win games. Skilled players here. Smart players.”

Oates spent time in the offseason talking to Grabovski and was fine with the Caps signing him. He’s played with emotional players and coached some, too. He knows what he’s getting. He doesn’t want Grabovski to change.

“I want a guy to be himself is what I want,” Oates said. “Hopefully we talk often enough that we keep him going the right way.”

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