Washington Capitals will benefit from Jason Arnott's playoff experience

Jason Arnott, left, won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2000.
Jason Arnott, left, won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2000. (Washington Post)
By Greg Schimmel
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 12:45 AM

Standing in front of his locker Wednesday after his first full practice with the Washington Capitals, Jason Arnott struck an imposing figure at 6-foot-5.

Acquired from New Jersey at Monday's trade deadline, Arnott provides a firm veteran presence and a Stanley Cup ring to a young team that could desperately use the former in its quest for the latter.

The 36-year-old center knows he is here to get more out of everybody else just as much as he is to provide a scoring boost, and he is already embracing the role of a leader.

"Being an older guy, you're not as shy to speak up and say things," Arnott said. "You don't want to rant and rave the whole time you're in the dressing room, but you just kind of say things when needed and just try to fix things if you think something needs to be fixed."

Arnott, whom the Capitals acquired from the Devils in exchange for center David Steckel and a 2012 second-round draft pick, is one of three veterans added at the deadline.

But even more than winger Marco Sturm and defenseman Dennis Wideman, Arnott has been around the league long enough and has had the requisite success to immediately earn respect from the Capitals' young stars.

He's played in 106 career playoff games, is a former captain and made his playoff debut in 1997.

"These guys can tell us advice," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "He's been in the finals before and winning and everything, he knows what you have to do."

Arnott scored the double-overtime goal that won the Stanley Cup for New Jersey in Game 6 of the 2000 finals, and also played in the finals the following year with the Devils.

Among the Caps who dressed for Arnott's Washington debut against the Islanders on Tuesday night, only Mike Knuble, Scott Hannan and Sturm had played a game in the NHL when Arnott scored the Cup-winning goal.

Knuble, 38, who was the only Stanley Cup winner on the team before Arnott arrived, said he welcomed the addition of Arnott as another valuable respected voice.

"It's another guy who commands a lot of respect," Knuble said. "Granted it was never always about one guy having to do the speaking, but any time you can get a veteran guy I think it's good just for the influence, and then the guys don't have to hear the same voice all the time."

On the ice, Arnott is a solid second-line center who has averaged nearly 28 goals over the last five seasons and can help out on the power play.

But on the bench and in the locker room, Arnott said he will stress the importance of doing the little things right.

"It's tough, but I can't hold anything back," Arnott said Tuesday night after his first game with the Capitals, a 2-1 overtime win against the New York Islanders. "They brought me in for a reason, to speak up in the room, and there are certain things we have to address if we want to go forward.

"If that means me speaking up and guys don't like it," he added, "that's what I've got to do."

Heading into the stretch run, Coach Bruce Boudreau hopes Arnott's arrival could be part of the difference for a team that has underachieved at times this season.

"Hopefully it brings just a quiet leadership," Boudreau said. "And when the guys are sitting around telling stories about how great winning the Cup is, it might be important."

Capitals notes: Goalie Semyon Varlamov did not participate in Wednesday's practice. He is officially listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but it is believed he is dealing with a knee problem.

Fellow netminder Michal Neuvirth took a "maintenance day," according to a team spokesman, and call-up Todd Ford was the only goalie facing shots in practice. . . .

Eric Fehr (shoulder) said he had a good practice and is aiming to return "toward the next couple of games." The winger has been out since Jan. 14. . . .

The Capitals signed defensive prospect Dmitri Orlov to a three-year, entry-level deal, according to a team spokesman. Orlov, a second-round draft pick (55th overall) in 2009, is not eligible to play in the NHL until next season.

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