Joe Corvo, hurt against Capitals in November, now has a prominent place on their blue line

"If you had to pick three teams to get traded to, this is one of them," Joe Corvo, left, said of the Capitals. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 8, 2010

The intense burning sensation Washington Capitals defenseman Joe Corvo felt in his lower leg is not one he will soon forget.

Corvo, then a key player for the Carolina Hurricanes, had finished his check along the boards on Capitals prospect Karl Alzner on Nov. 30 at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. It was a routine play, one Corvo has made hundreds of times during his seven-season career.

But this time, Alzner's skate blade and Corvo's leg converged. As the players collided, Alzner's skate cut into the unprotected backside of Corvo's leg, slicing through two pairs of socks, his skin, calf muscle, a nerve and his Achilles' tendon.

"He just dumped the puck in, and I just tried to finish him off, rub him out," Corvo said. "At the time, his knee was against the boards and his skate was up. My leg swung around with full force and his leg had nowhere to go because it was against the boards. His skate went all the way in, slashing everything."

Corvo glanced down and saw blood soaking his red sock. More disconcerting, however, was the disconnect between his brain and foot.

"My foot was stuck in a particular position," he said, "and I really couldn't move it."

Corvo, a 32-year-old native of Illinois, was rushed to nearby Rex Hospital, where he underwent extensive surgery and needed more than 100 stitches. He missed Carolina's next 28 games, and being sidelined stirred mixed emotions.

This season had been a rough one, even before the injury. The Hurricanes lost 14 games in a row from Oct. 10 to Nov. 15, a skid that scuttled their playoff hopes and soured Corvo's outlook, just one season after he notched 14 goals and 24 assists in the regular season and helped the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference finals.

"We were doing horribly, and then I got hurt," he said. "At that time, I was doing pretty bad. I was angry that it happened. But it was almost like I needed a mental break from the whole grind that was going on there."

Corvo's real break came Wednesday afternoon when the Hurricanes dealt him to Washington for Brian Pothier, a prospect and a draft pick. Like that, Corvo had gone from 28th place to the NHL's top team, the one that almost ended his season only three months earlier.

"If you had to pick three teams to get traded to, this is one of them," he said. "You would have to pick the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and I won't mention their name in this locker room. Or that team in San Jose. But I think this is the best team in the East."

After overcoming some first-game jitters in his Capitals debut Thursday, a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay, Corvo was one of the team's steadiest defensemen. In Saturday's 2-0 win over the New York Rangers, he notched his first point, a secondary assist on Eric Fehr's five-on-three game-winner.

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