- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Matt Hendricks went into this season with a goal — that he wanted to score 10 or more goals. The gritty Washington Capitals forward had never reached double digits in his brief NHL career, so this was supposed to be the year.

Going into his 30th game, Hendricks was still 0-for-the-season. Monday night, he snapped that drought, which he admitted was affecting his game.

“I think it’s a little bit of a sense of relief. I know I was really squeezing the stick,” Hendricks said. “It wears at your psyche a bit.”

Hendricks had come close a few times but it took a tip-in of Mathieu Perreault’s shot in the second period against the Sabres to score his first since April 6. It was the end of a lot of frustration.

“At about the 15-game mark … nothing was going in. Then for about the next five or 10 games, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to find that one and kind of after that, you’re just kind of like, ‘It’s got to come sooner or later’ and you try to let it go and hope you get a lucky one, which I did,” Hendricks said. “Now I can move forward after that and hopefully have a strong second half of the year here.”

Jeff Halpern didn’t get on the board this season until early November, so he can relate.

“I don’t think anyone’s asking, but I know he or myself or anyone puts pressure on themselves to produce. To get a goal, it gives you a little confidence,” Halpern said. “You don’t think about it quite as much; things tend to fall into place a little bit easier.”

Vokoun starts

Tomas Vokoun was waiting for his chance. His last start was Dec. 13.

“You’ve got to stay ready and you’ve got to work hard in practice. It’s not something you want to go through. But obviously sometimes you don’t have a choice,” the 35-year-old goaltender said. “We’re just trying to work hard and gain confidence in practice and do the right things and hopefully it’s going to translate when you play the game.”

Vokoun got the start Wednesday night against the New York Rangers. It follows a 16-save performance in relief Monday night at the Sabres. Going into the Rangers game, Vokoun was 12-8-0 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

Green skates again

Defenseman Mike Green skated with teammates again Wednesday morning and even took part in a lot of extra work after practice. Green, who suffered a right groin strain Nov. 11, missed his 21st straight game against the Rangers but could be in line for a return soon.

Green has been working on the power play, perhaps the prime area where the Caps need him.

“He’s a big part of our team and creates a lot of offense and he’s our quarterback on our PP,” defenseman John Erskine said. “The quicker he gets back, I think the better off our team will be.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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