Matt Hendricks earned his keep – and a two-year contract extension – by leading the Capitals in fights and ranking second in hits last season.
Goals and assists, specifically.
“Heck yeah,” Hendricks said, cracking a smile. “I had nine goals goals my first year in the NHL with Colorado. I played 56 games that year. Last year, I played in 77 games and had nine goals. I need to figure out a way to get over that hump.”
So, how exactly does Hendricks intend to increase his offensive output? Well, he said, it starts with proving to Coach Bruce Boudreau that he, along with the rest of the Caps’ revamped fourth line, is deserving of more ice time. The 30-year-old averaged 11:27 in 2010-11 (25th on the team) and he produced 25 points (11th) and 113 shots on goal (12th).
“Without getting away from my niche, [the fourth] line needs to find a way to be more offensive,” Hendricks said, reiterating a sentiment shared by Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee.
“We want to be in the zone, cycling, getting opportunities to score,” he continued. “If we can become more offensive, work on that, and still be reliable defensively, I think Bruce is going to feel more comfortable putting us out again anybody, line 1-4 of our opposition.”
Phase two of Hendricks' plan is to alter his approach to scoring in practice. He learned a lot from watching 39-year-old Mike Knuble shoot his way out of a slump that had him stuck on eight goals through the first three months last season.
“I remember looking at him,” Hendricks said. “He would stand out there for 30 minutes after practice every day just working on scoring. Didn't need a goalie. He just wanted to shoot pucks into an empty net. Next thing you know he's got 13 goals in  games.”
In addition to firing extra shots, Hendricks said, he also plans to “fine tune” his accuracy and work on hunting down and putting back rebounds.
“All these things will mentally will give me the confidence to get me over that hump,” he said.
Something else that might help Hendricks score more frequently will be playing alongside Jeff Halpern, whose 26 points in Montreal last season were more than the Caps received from that position all last year. The fact that Hendricks and Halpern are already skating together — a month before the start of camp — doesn’t hurt, either.
“I've watched him play a lot and I've emulated his game,” Hendricks said. “He's also got that offensive ability. You can see his offensive knack for the game. Getting to know him a little bit on the ice and a little bit off the ice, it's definitely going to help us.”
Hendricks, who drove to Arlington from Minnesota on Saturday, confirmed what I've been hearing from a number of players in recent days: most of the team will be trickling into town over the next 10 days or so rather than flying in last minute, as was common in previous years.
“There's a lot of dedication – that's been the topic within the team,” Hendricks said. “Guys are going to come in a little bit earlier, and guys are going to be ready to go and be hungry.”
[Note: This interview was conducted early Wednesday morning, before Matt Bradley's comments became a hot topic.]
Asked about Boudreau calling this a “serious” season for the organization, Hendricks said: “Maybe being a little bit more businesslike, a little bit more focused all around, every day, maybe that's going to be one of the things that will push us over the edge come playoff time.”
“When it comes down to brass tacks, and being one hundred percent committed and being one hundred percent focused, I think we can improve on that a little bit and bring that different mentality every day.”