April 19, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich (21) gets the puck knocked away by Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) in game four of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks Laich Is Back

There isn’t much more to say other than that. After fretting about him being out of the lineup at the beginning of the season, then wondering if/when he was going to return to action, Washington Capitals fans will finally get to see Brooks Laich back in uniform tonight.

And not a moment too soon, frankly, as the Caps play the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road to begin a stretch of six out of seven away from home. It’s a segment of the schedule that can make or break the season, one that could determine if they’re fighting for a playoff spot or dreaming about coming through in the lottery to have a shot at Seth Jones.

Assuming he’s able to shake off the rust fairly quickly, Laich gives Washington a bit of help in several areas. Coach Adam Oates has been talking the whole season about playing him at left wing on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, so he should slot right in there. Considering Oates has auditioned everyone from Marcus Johansson to Aaron Volpatti in that spot, some stability will be welcomed with open arms.

Laich is also responsible defensively, a blessing since the Caps are so banged up on the blue line at the moment. Dmitry Orlov should also lend an immediate hand, but the whole team needs to pitch in to avoid the kind of defensive zone foolishness that reared its ugly head last weekend at Boston. To top it off, Laich is also a shorthanded threat, having scored at least one shorty each of the last six seasons.

A lot of the argument on the internets this afternoon seems to be focusing on whether or not Laich can “save” the season. No one should be suggesting that he’s a magic cure for everything that ails the Caps. He’s not a savior in the sense that he’ll singlehandedly fix Washington’s inconsistency, or score 15 goals before the season ends, or instantly turn the Capitals into a menacing road team.

But as a rallying point for the rest of the team to pull together? Yeah, he should be able to do that just fine, especially since playing the Penguins on national TV is as big a spotlight as a regular season game can have this year. It’s going to be great to see number 21 out there, no question.

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Tags: Alex Ovechkin Brooks Laich Dmitry Orlov Nicklas Backstrom

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