With four moves at NHL trade deadline, Capitals in position for run

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 4, 2010

BUFFALO -- By pulling off four separate deals on Wednesday, Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee sent a not-so-subtle message to the rest of the National Hockey League: He believes the time is now for his team to make a Stanley Cup run.

The Capitals were among the busiest teams prior to the 3 p.m. trade deadline, acquiring defensemen Joe Corvo (Carolina) and Milan Jurcina (Columbus) as well as forwards Scott Walker (Carolina) and Eric Belanger (Minnesota) in an effort to add depth and grit to their lineup.

The Capitals surrendered only one player from their current roster, defenseman Brian Pothier, who went to the Hurricanes in the Corvo deal.

"I don't know if we're the favorite," Coach Bruce Boudreau said prior to the Capitals' 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. "But any time you have the chance to improve your team without giving up a lot, that's a pretty good exchange."

While the Capitals did not add the crease-clearing defenseman fans were clamoring for, Corvo is expected to be an upgrade for a blue line that has struggled at times this season. Corvo, 32, is fast, has an above-average shot and can play in all situations. Boudreau said Corvo, who is listed at 6 feet, 204 pounds, will receive plenty of ice time on the league's top-ranked power play, which will allow the coaching staff to keep defenseman Mike Green's playing time in check. Boudreau coached Corvo in the Los Angeles Kings' minor league system from 2001 through 2003.

"Corvo was the top defenseman available in our minds and we got him," McPhee said.

In addition to sending Pothier to Carolina, the Capitals also traded prospect Oskar Osala and a second-round pick in the 2011 draft to the struggling Hurricanes, who dealt five veterans one year after reaching the conference finals.

Corvo's season was nearly derailed because of an injury he suffered in a game against the Capitals on Nov. 30. In that contest, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner's skate sliced Corvo's right leg, forcing him to miss 28 games. Because of the injury, he has appeared in only 34 contests, racking up four goals, eight assists and a plus-minus rating of minus-6 in an average of 25 minutes 13 seconds per game.

"An opportunity comes around a handful of times in a career that you get to go to such a strong team with such high expectations at this time of the year," Corvo said as he prepared to fly to Washington from Raleigh, N.C. "You just have to seize it."

None of the new players joined the Capitals for the game in Buffalo. But Corvo, Walker and Belanger were expected to be available to suit up for Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center. The plan for Jurcina, who was reacquired after being traded to Columbus in December, was unclear since the defenseman is scheduled to miss four to six weeks with a sports hernia.

The second-most significant move was the acquisition of Belanger, another veteran who once played for Boudreau in the Kings' farm system.

Belanger, 32, who was picked up for a second-round draft pick, is known for his speed, efficiency in the faceoff circle and proficiency on the penalty kill, an area where the Capitals have struggled. Belanger was Minnesota's fourth-leading scorer, with 13 goals and 22 assists in 60 games. He also ranks seventh in the league in faceoffs (57.6 percent), five spots behind second place David Steckel.

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