When the Washington Capitals obtained Mike Kaszycki from the New York Islanders, they merely were availing themselves of the best possible deal for defecting defenseman Gord Lane.
Now, with Guy Charron lost for the season, the team must get maximum production from Kaszycki and the other remaining centers if it is to earn a playoff berth.
Coming up this weekend are two vital home engagements before the Capitals, begin a difficult stretch that includes seven road contests in eight games. The Quebec Nordiques visit Capital Centre today at 1:30, then Kaszycki's old club, the Islanders, will be 7:30 guests on Sunday.
"Both games are very crucial," said Coach Gary Gren. "Quebec is a must. Even though Quebec is 13 points up on us, it is a team we consider within sight, and we have to win those. We can win at home against the Islanders, too. They've won six in a row and they're hot, but we had a big game against Philly and we should play that way against them.
"We can't replace Guy, and obviously we'll miss his 70 to 80 points a season. But no team revolves around one guy. All four of our centermen have to come up big, make up for that missing offense, and if all four do, we'll survive out there."
Kaszycki is determined to do his share. He has had considerable difficulty here, partly because he has been bounced between left wing and center, partly because he has not fully mastered the checking system Green demands.
But Kaszycki has exhibited some masterful passing, he has recorded six goals and eight assists in 19 games despite the shuffling, he has impressed Green enough to inherit Charron's role on the power play and he has the incentive to prove some people wrong, notably those behind the visiting bench Sunday.
"I think I'm more effective at center," said Kaszycki, who will play between Leif Sveneson and Tim Coulis tonight. "It's good to be able to play two positions, but you have to be a lot more disciplined on the wing. You're restricted there. I'm used to roaming around, and I like it better at center.
"I have a few things I want badly to prove. I want to pull more weight and set an example for the guys. I've been to the playoffs and it's a great feeling, and I'd like to help these guys get there, too. I've been playing regularly here and if I can get myself untracked, I think I can help.
"Taking the body for me has been a problem since day one. It's my biggest weakness. I was a big scorer in junior (170 points for an Ontario record in 1975-76) and I always had the puck. I never worried about taking the body.
"Then in pro I had one of the toughest coaches (Al Arbour) and it was either play his way or don't play at all. So my first year I was at Fort Worth and it was just like junior, scoring a lot and not really learning what Al wanted me to do.
"With the Islanders, I sat out a lot, because I wasn't playing the body the way Al wanted. Now here, I've had the same trouble, but at least I've been playing and I know what to do. I have to remember to step in front of the puck carrier, to take a piece of the body.
"Now that Guy is gone, there is pressure on everybody. We all have to pick up our socks and give a bit extra. I think I can do it if I set my mind to it."
Kaszycki proved that he possesses the necessary dedication by playing Tuesday despite a severe case of "Montcalm's Revenge" acquired in Quebec.
"I'm surprised I made it through the game," Kaszycki said. "I was sick on the bench and after four of five strides on the ice, I was done. I just tried to stay in position and set up the other guys. I made one rush and I was finished for the game."
He stayed out on the ice, though, despite jerrs from fans who were unaware of the reason behind the lethargy. This weekend he plans to turn those jeers to cheers.