- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2012

MONTREAL — Since Nicklas Backstrom has been out of the Washington Capitals’ lineup, someone had to wear the other “A” as an alternate captain. Brooks Laich was that player for the first six games, joining Mike Knuble.

But on Wednesday night, Laich wasn’t wearing an “A.” Instead, it was forward Troy Brouwer, doing so for the first time this season. Immediately after the 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens, Brouwer didn’t know why he got that honor.

“I have no idea. I didn’t really talk to the coaches. They didn’t tell me much about it,” he said. “I just came to the rink and it was on my jersey. I like to think maybe I’ve been playing well and coaches have confidence in me.”

Brouwer also joked that “coaches must be thinking I’m doing something right.”

That is the case, as coach Dale Hunter explained his thought process with giving Brouwer the “A.”

“You see him out there, he sacrifices. There’s a lot of guys out there, but we move it around,” Hunter said. “Troy’s been blocking a lot of shots, and he has one of the most hits in the league, and he plays a hard game and is hard to play against.”

Sure enough, Brouwer had an ice pack on his foot after the game — not an injury just the usual bruises that go along with taking frozen rubber to skin and bone. He was credited with two blocked shots.

In his introductory teleconference upon getting traded to the Caps in late June, Brouwer talked about wanting to be a leader, especially given that he won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and learned from the likes of veteran John Madden.

“I try and lead whether or not I’ve got an ‘A’ on my chest,” Brouwer said Wednesday.

Wednesday provided tangible evidence of that leadership.

As for Laich, he said in an extensive interview in November that he didn’t care about having a letter.

“The players that play the game with you are smart. And they see you every day,” he said. “And if they respect you, it’s because you’ve earned it, and if they don’t respect you it’s because you haven’t earned it. I don’t think you have to put a label on it.

“Players are going to see you if you’re a phony, and they’re going to see you if you’re a leader. I just try and do my best, try and work hard and help out the guys. I know it sounds all cliché, but I’m not too worried about wearing an ‘A’ or being anointed a leader. I’m just trying to help out where I can.”

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