The Washington Capitals, still hopeful of achieving a Stanley Cup playoff berth, have signed 35-year-old center Dennis Hextall, who was released Wednesday by the Detroit Red Wings.

"He should help our faceoffs, which have been only about 35 percent lately, and he will provide an anchor for a checking line we need so badly," said General Manager Max McNab.

Washington will be the sixth NHL team for Hextall, who broke in with the New York Rangers in 1969 and also played for Los Angeles, California and Minnesota. In 643 NHL games, he has collected 150 goals and 340 assists, while serving 1,308 penalty minutes.

Hextall has a reputation for being so mean that teammates have become angered by his tactics in practice sessions.

A year ago, he rammed Boston's Gary Doak into the boards, Doak suffering a fractured cheekbone in the incident. As a result, Hextall was roughed up by a half-dozen Boston players in the teams' first meeting this year.

The Capitals were interested in Hextall a year ago, but negotiations broke off when Hextall suddenly became a spark in Detroit's playoff drive. This season, Hextall played 20 games, then was put in limbo by General Manager Ted Lindsay, who refused to place him on waivers or permit him to practice.

Hextall became a focus of discontent among Red Wing fans and a recent sign at the Olympia read: "Hex plus 3, Harper plus 2, McCourt minus 21 -- Chinese math?" Hextall and Terry Harper, brought back from Kansas City two weeks ago, were plus players for Detroit, while high-paid Dale McCourt had been playing poorly although he was receiving maximum ice time.