- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Matt Hendricks took the laces out of his skates Sunday and barely looked up. The usually chatty grinder seemed pretty upset given that the Washington Capitals had lost four in a row.

“You can say as much as you want,” Hendricks, a forward, said, “but until you do the things necessary to turn the ship, it doesn’t really matter.”

Hendricks hasn’t scored a goal this season, but it won’t matter if he keeps doing what he did Monday night. With the Capitals struggling again, he fought the Phoenix Coyotes’ Kyle Chipchura to give his team a boost — any boost — to end the skid. Going to the locker room to get stitched up, Hendricks implored his teammates to get going.

That’s called doing what’s necessary to turn things around.

“A lot of guys say the right things. It’s a matter of getting everyone on the same page and doing the right things,” Hendricks said after the streak-snapping 4-3 victory. “You can talk about things as much as you want. Until we go out and execute, we’re not going to get the results.”

Results, players said, will come with hard work. But a spark was needed. Hendricks’ fight Monday was not the direct turning point, but it provided the Caps with a spurt of energy that paved the way toward a comeback.

“People talk about fighting and whether it makes a point in the game or not. Matt does a great job. We had a lot of talking about competing and playing your role and working hard,” forward Brooks Laich said. “What he does or what he did, that’s taking it upon yourself. We’ve talked about looking at yourself and doing whatever you can to help the team win. Matt takes it upon himself.”

As much as making forward Alexander Semin a healthy scratch sent a message, the fight was a first-hand example of a player in the lineup leading the way for teammates.

“What a warrior. He goes out there every night and competes hard,” right wing Joel Ward said. “For him to go out there and battle like that, it definitely jump-started us and got us going.”

Fights often are as good or better at turning momentum than timeouts or good offensive shifts. Obviously, scoring is ideal, but dropping the gloves is an adrenaline-builder. Defenseman John Erskine tried it in Nashville, left wing Jason Chimera fought when the game was out of hand in Toronto.

It worked better against Phoenix, and maybe another player will take it upon himself to send a message Wednesday night when the Caps host the Winnipeg Jets.

Or maybe another fight won’t be needed, because the message got through.

“Anytime somebody’s willing to fight and sacrifice their body, there’s only one reason to do that,” rookie center Cody Eakin said. “And Hendy, he’s all about the team. The guys get fired up, and, ‘Look, he’s willing to do that, let’s go play the right way for him.’ “

And the right way to win games.

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

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