(Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

For every game like the strong showing against Nashville on Dec. 20 it seems as though the Capitals have a pair of contests where they succumb to bad habits, the ailments that have been a common refrain for players following lackluster losses like the one Monday night in Buffalo.

From committing too many turnovers, not winning enough one-on-one battles for the puck, not creating traffic in front of an opposing net, giving up odd-man rushes, starting slow in a contest and so on – these are problems that the players say they can fix, it’s just a matter of backing up those words with actions.

The always candid Brooks Laich didn’t hold back when discussing what the Capitals need to do better and addressing the fact that the team needs to have an urgency to win now.

“I think some guys are putting it in every night but we could be better. Even guys who are working I think could take it to another level,” Laich said. “Words are cheap sometimes, well done is better than well said. I’ve said it many times. You can talk all you want -- the game is played on the ice…It’s on the individual to prepare. It’s not on the coaching staff, it’s not on anybody else. It’s on the individuals to prepare for the game and be ready for the start of the game. If we’re having slow starts that means as individuals we’re not prepared for the hockey game.”

Prior to Tuesday night’s games the Capitals sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot and seven points away from Southeast Division leading Florida.

Granted there are eight games before the mid-way point of the season but with 11 of the next 15 contests coming against Eastern foes the next few weeks will be important in determining which way the Capitals shift.

“If people don’t realize it, we’re in a dog fight. We’re not playing good hockey, we need to improve right now,” Laich said. “There’s no complacency -- there’s no thinking that there’s a magic switch that’s going to make it turn on. It’s going to take work to get out of this. It’s going to take work and believing in your teammates and that’s the only way it’s going to happen.”

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