It was in his time with the Hershey Bears in 2006-07 that Matt Hendricks learned to be versatile. He played 65 games with that year's AHL Eastern Conference Champions, soaking up the advice of then-Bears coaches Bruce Boudreau and Bob Woods.
The natural center can play every forward position and has in the past, but it's a trait he first began adjusting to during his time in Hershey. His respect for both Boudreau and Woods is what made joining the Capitals' training camp on a professional tryout easier.
"That season was a big turning point in my career," Hendricks said. "They taught me how to be the type of player I am now, and just be a student of the game and take every opportunity to learn from the players around you."
After working his way up through the ECHL and AHL, he spent the past two seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, playing 56 games last season when he finally earned a lengthy stay in the NHL with nine goals, 16 points and 74 penalty minutes. Hendricks, 29, understands the role he can play on a team with plenty of young talent.
"With my experience I can be a vocal guy in the room on the bench and maybe be that extra spark, that sandpaper that the team needs to get over that next hump," he said. "There's a lot of talented young players, a lot of great players and I'm just going to do my part and give it my all and hopefully earn a spot on this team."
It's possible, depending on how many players up to the maximum number of 23 that the Capitals choose to carry at the beginning of the season, that Hendricks could earn a place in Washington. If not, making Hershey's roster isn't out of the question either.
Hendricks's key traits are energy, aggressiveness and necessary grit that those at KCI on Sunday got a brief glimpse of. During the scrimmage between Teams B and C, Hendricks caught a piece of rookie Trevor Bruess with an open ice hit late in the game. The veteran Hendricks didn't want to talk about what was presumably a little payback for Bruess dumping Tomas Fleischmann over the boards, but it was definitely noticed that he stood up for his teammates.
As for his take on these Capitals and the organization that he's now trying to rejoin:
"There's no such thing as second place in their mind; they want to be up top in everything they do," Hendricks said. "In my mind there's no better way to play the game and to look at yourself every day in the mirror as a winner. That's something they do and it's very exciting to be a part of it."
AROUND THE WEB
After two years of waiting, Karl Alzner is all but guaranteed a spot on the Washington roster as a key cog of the team's defense this year. (Corey Masisak)
On how the Capitals can keep Semyon Varlamov healthy. (Masisak)
Dan Rosen talks to former NHL general manager and current analyst Craig Button about his philosophy on how successful teams should be built. He also offers the following assessment of the Capitals netminders:
"If Marty Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and arguably the best to ever play the position, can't win in this era without great defense, I can guarantee you Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov can't win without a great defense," Button said. "I have no problem going with a young goaltender, but you better make sure teams can't take advantage of his vulnerability and inexperience."
And the NHL released a video detailing new rules that was sent to all teams it includes examples and explanations on hits to the head, preventing contact on icings and rules for fighting or other altercations.