Capitals center Michael Latta says that if Buffalo Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers knew that Latta’s arm went numb during their fight on Monday night, he probably wouldn’t have emphatically celebrated his victory over Latta by thrusting his arms in the air.
“The fight was going fine and then I tweaked something and my arm kind of went numb,” said Latta, who will be replaced by Zach Sill when the Capitals face the Sabres again tonight at Verizon Center.
“You saw what happened after. I couldn’t hang on. I didn’t have any grip left in my hand. He thought he beat me pretty good, but my arm kind of got numb.
“I’m not sure if he knew what happened. I don’t think he would have been cheering like that if he knew. … I would never do that, personally. I don’t think many guys in the league do that anymore. I think he embarrassed himself, more than anything.”
With Latta out of the lineup, Sill, who has 96 penalty minutes in 83 career NHL games, will make his Capitals debut tonight against the Sabres.
Could that mean some pre-New Year’s Eve fireworks?
“For sure, there could be some things going on out there – and it could be really quiet,” Deslauriers told the Buffalo News. “We’ll just see. I’m here to play hockey. I’m not here to fight every single game. We’ll try to get a win down there.”
“I’m just going to bring energy, a physical presence,” said Sill, a 6-foot, 202-pound veteran. “Hopefully, create some energy and run around a little bit with my linemates and do what a fourth line does.”
Sill, 27, said he didn’t see Monday night’s game between the Caps and Sabres but has been informed that Deslauriers’ questionable hit on Justin Williams led to the fight between him and Latta. Asked if there could be some spillover, tonight, Sill shrugged his shoulders.
“It can,” he said. “I’m not saying that it will. It was a good game and hopefully it will be another hard-fought game tonight. I’m going to finish my checks. I’m going to play hard. I don’t feel any pressure filling in for Latta.”
For his part, Williams seemed amused by all the fuss created by Deslauriers’ hit on him, even though the stick he took to the mouth opened up a cut that required five stitches to close. Williams said he appreciated Latta’s response but didn’t feel it was necessary.
“Nothing epitomizes a team more than people sticking up for each other,” he said. “Although I deemed it unnecessary, it makes you feel good. I love having guys like that on my team, who go to war with you. No matter if you’re right or wrong they have your back and everyone on this team feels the same way.
“It adds to the pack mentality,” Williams continued. “When someone hits someone and you’ve got 20 guys on your bench yelling at the guy it has an impact. I don’t care if it’s 2015 or 1995, it still has an impact on how others play the game. I love having guys like that on my team.
“I don’t need anyone fighting my battles for me, but he’s certainly more than capable of doing it.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Latta likely will return to the lineup Thursday night when the Capitals visit Carolina. Asked why Sill was the player the Caps recalled, Trotz said, “Center ice.”
Trotz also said the second game of a home-and-home can become a little more personal between the two teams.
“If anything goes on (in the first game) it tends to get a little more personal,” Trotz said. “You play one game and you move on. You play a team twice, depending on how the game is going, I think it becomes a little more personal.”
Williams said he doesn’t expect anything more than a hard-fought game tonight.
“What’s going to happen is going to happen, but I certainly don’t see any bad blood,” he said. “It would have to be a lot worse thing than what happened.”
MORE CAPITALS: Trotz won't rule Carlson out despite MRI