The Caps have plenty of reason to put forth one of their best performances of the season tonight.
Troy Bouwer, though, has got a little extra motivation.
He’ll be making his return to United Center, the arena he called home for three seasons before the Blackhawks traded him to the Capitals for a first-round pick at the draft last June.
As reporters gathered around Brouwer following the morning skate, defenseman Dennis Wideman surveyed the scene and cracked, “Did you play here? You neeever talk about it.”
Why wouldn’t he? In a span of six years in Chicago’s organization, Brouwer ascended from a seventh-round draft pick to Blackhawks’ regular to Stanley Cup champion.
“It's a lot of fun so far,” Brouwer said. “Got a chance to see a couple guys last night. Chance to hang out with a few friends I made in the city through the course of my time here. Just stepping back onto the ice here brings back a lot of memories, good memories."
“I even won the little game that we play at the end” of practice, he added. “Guys were saying it’s just because I feel comfortable out there.”
With the Capitals receiving Saturday off from practice, Brouwer was a popular guy with his new teammates, who wanted to know the best places to eat and visit around town. He still maintains a home in Chicago.
And although he’s been gone eight months, Brouwer said he still keeps tabs on the Blackhawks via text message with former teammates, trainers and other staffers.
“I see [Brent] Seabrook all the time in the summer, [Patrick Sharp] and [Jonathan Toews] from time to time,” he added. “But a lot of the guys I was really close with have been traded away. It’s a little bit of a different atmosphere around here.”
Brouwer scored 10, 22 and 17 goals, respectively, in his three full-time seasons in Chicago.
Through 71 games in Washington, he’s got 18 goals. The versatile winger is also on pace for 250 hits; he had a career-high 269 for the Blackhawks last season.
“I’d like to be [at 20 goals] already,” he said. “It’s been a pretty decent season. I’ve bounced around on a bunch of different lines. Sometimes it’s tough to get used to. Lately, I’ve been playing with two solid players [Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle] and we just try to move the puck forward and try to get chances and hopefully I can cap it off by getting to [20 goals]. But I’m just worried about getting into the playoffs right now.”
Asked if he expected to see Brouwer play with a little extra energy, Coach Dale Hunter said: “You always have a little more oomph, but one thing about Troy I don’t have to worry about – he has oomph every game.”