Boudreau returns to DC, where he helped put hockey ‘front-and-center’

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Brooks Laich remembers the days when a ticket to a Washington Capitals game wasn’t exactly a hot commodity. The 30-year-old first donned a Caps uniform in 2003-04, before Alex Ovechkin was drafted and when average attendance was just 14,720 to watch a team that finished with a dreadful 23-46-10-3 record.

But Laich doesn’t just credit Ovechkin with hockey’s turnaround in DC. He also credits current Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, who returns to the Verizon Center tonight for the first time since being fired by the Caps in late 2011.

“He turned hockey from a back-burner sport into a front-and-center, front page, exciting, real entertaining game,” Laich said, per CSN Washington. “Certainly, the players and organization have had a role in that, too, but he was one of the leading forces to putting hockey on the map in Washington.”

Because it wasn’t just that the Caps started winning games under Boudreau; it was the way they played, running and gunning in a league that was desperately trying to move on from the so-called “dead puck” era.

Eventually, after failing to make a deep run in the playoffs, and with his team being accused of playing the “wrong way,” Boudreau dialed it back in an attempt to play the “right way” — a move he later hinted went against his instincts.

If only Jaroslav Halak hadn’t…well, no point in going over that again; that’s history now.

“Look what he’s done with [Anaheim],” Laich said. “They were a team on the decline and now they’re at the top of the standings again.”

Indeed, the Ducks are red hot, with eight straight victories and a 26-7-5 record.