Troy Brouwer openly questioned Alexander Semin’s commitment to his craft Monday, suggesting that there were some nights last season where “you didn’t even know if he was going to come to the rink.”
While Brouwer acknowledged that he didn’t always know what to expect from Semin during their one year as teammates, he also said that he expects a strong showing from Semin as the Russian sniper returns to Verizon Center for the time since last season.
Semin signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes last summer and will face the Capitals Tuesday for the first of five meetings this season.
“You do get pretty excited to play former teams,” Brouwer said.
“It gives you something to get up for if you don't already have enough as it is. It is fun; it is an experience. I'm sure he'll get a warm welcome [Tuesday] when he is here… In that aspect he's going to enjoy probably coming back and playing.”
Semin spent seven seasons with the Capitals and ranks fifth in franchise history with 197 goals. He also remains the club’s 14th all-time leading scorer with 408 points in 469 games.
The consensus among the Capitals is that the 28-year-old Semin will likely have some extra motivation entering Tuesday’s Southeast Division matchup.
“He [will] just want to show up and tell them like it was a mistake,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Every normal player will do it.”
Adam Oates never coached Semin, but the Capitals bench boss played for seven different clubs during his 19-year NHL career and is no stranger to facing old teammates.
“Impossible to block out,” Oates said of the significance of facing a former team. “You’ve got to be a cold person to block that out.
“I’m sure [Semin is] going to have some butterflies. You see the guys you know; the first time for me was really difficult and especially when you had some good success there and a lot of feelings and friends and it’s tough. The first time you get traded is very tough; the sixth time was a little easier,” Oates said tongue in cheek.
Oates recalled Monday the first time he returned to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena after the Red Wings traded him to the St. Louis in 1989.
“My first time back in Detroit, I just remember [being] nervous the whole day and in warm-up. [Nervous] in a good way and you see it around the League, it happens.”
Oates used the word “tough” to describe his experience returning to Detroit as a visiting player in Nov. 1989, but the results suggest otherwise. The Blues beat the Red Wings 7-2 and Oates had four assists.
“You always want to do well going to your old stomping grounds,” Capitals winger Joel Ward said, “so I’m sure that he’ll obviously play a good game and it’s our job to kind of keep him off the scoreboard as best we can.
“I think that he can snakebite you pretty good if there are turnovers and stuff so you’ve just got make correct passes and play smart because giving him open space on a turnover can be deadly.”
Current Capitals center Mike Ribeiro also enjoyed a successful return when he played at Montreal’s Bell Centre for the first time as a visiting player.
The Canadiens traded Ribeiro to the Dallas Stars in 2006, but due to injuries and limited inter-conference play, Ribeiro didn’t get the chance to face his old team at their arena until last February. For Ribeiro, it was worth the wait as he scored and was named the first star and even took a bow on the Bell Centre ice after a 3-0 Dallas win.
"I didn't know what to expect,” Ribeiro said at the time.
“A lot of players who came back when I played here, the people used to boo them. I wasn't sure for today, but the fans have always been behind me. It was kind of nice and surprising and a little emotional after the first star, so I decided to salute them and say thank you in my way to them.”