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Caps' Quintin Laing Overcomes Spleen Injury, Is Eager to Earn Roster Spot
Laing won't suit up for all of the exhibitions, so he has to make the most out of whatever playing time he gets.
"I don't ever want to say it's my last chance," Laing said, "but it's definitely my best chance of staying out of training camp."
His success this preseason won't be measured in goals and assists. A good night for Laing, rather, involves subtle contributions such as finishing checks, killing penalties and, of course, his specialty: blocking shots.
"I know what my job is," said Laing. "I figured that out kind of early, just because I never really could score goals."
Even if Laing doesn't make the opening night roster, he'll likely spend some time in Washington this season. He's one of Boudreau's favorites because of the perseverance he's shown over the course of nine professional seasons, the majority of which has been spent riding buses in the minors.
"You just watch Quint play and you become a fan of his," Boudreau said. "It's hard not to be."
Boudreau said that when Laing was called up by the Capitals as an injury replacement in March, the plan was for him to stay with the team for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. It lasted only one game because of the injury, which could have been catastrophic had Laing not gone to the hospital. Instead, Greg Smith, the Capitals' head athletic trainer, called for doctors just in time.
"It was very, very serious, for sure," Smith said. "A person can bleed out if it's not properly diagnosed. On a scale of 1 to 10, after all was said and done, it was probably a three. But at the particular moment, it was a 10, because you never know until you get that test. That's why you have to move quick."
"I thought they were being overprotective," Laing said. "I didn't want to go to the hospital with cramps or bruised abs and get made fun of by the guys. But they said, 'Let's get it checked out.' "
Laing wasn't supposed to come back so soon. In fact, several people close to him urged him not to, but he didn't listen.
"If I'm healthy, I'm going to try to play," he said. "That's what I do: I play hockey."
Capitals Notes: Defenseman Brian Pothier scored on a five-on-three power play in overtime Thursday night to lift the Capitals to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres in the preseason opener for both teams at HSBC Arena.
Washington goaltender Semyon Varlamov was outstanding for 40 minutes, stopping all 17 shots he faced. But he yielded three goals on six shots in the third period as the game opened up.
Alexandre Giroux, Mike Knuble and Jay Beagle also scored for the Capitals, who outshot the Sabres 33-23 and did not have a power play all game until the advantage Pothier converted 49 seconds into the extra session.
Nicklas Backstrom earned the first star of the game, notching a pair of assists and taking a game-high five shots on goal. He also won 12 of 19 faceoffs (63 percent).
Singled out for praise by Coach Bruce Boudreau: Varlamov; the line of Chris Bourque, Beagle and Andrew Gordon; Knuble; Giroux; and defensemen Jeff Schultz, Pothier and Tyler Sloan, who finished with five blocked shots.