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Capitals claim Aaron Volpatti off waivers from Canucks

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The Washington Capitals claimed Aaron Volpatti off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, adding toughness and grit to their bottom-six forwards.

The 6-foot, 215-pound winger has just three goals and an assist in 54 career NHL games, but he has 81 penalty minutes in that time. Volpatti has four fights in 16 games this season.

“Part of it has to do with being a physical guy. When you hit guys like that you’re going to get a little bit of attention drawn to yourself and sometimes you have to answer the bell,” Volpatti said in a phone interview Thursday. “Other times if there needs to be a boost or something, I’m willing to do that, if I can’t make that big hit. I wouldn’t consider myself a heavyweight. I’m more of a fan of a big hit happening and something spur of the moment.”

Volpatti figures to fit in on a fourth-line role for the Caps, who will be getting something of an agitator extraordinaire in the 27-year-old Brown University graduate. In speaking with general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates, Volpatti expects his role in Washington to be similar to what he did in Vancouver.

“Get in on the forecheck and make life miserable for the other team and hopefully contribute a little bit more than I have been here in terms of ice time and chipping in the odd goal,” Volpatti said. “As I’ve moved up through the ranks of the hockey league, that’s sort of been, I guess, my bread and butter. It’s something that’s always been there.”

McPhee deferred comment to Oates through a team spokesman. The Caps’ coach is expected to address Volpatti’s addition after Friday’s practice. Volpatti was originally scheduled to meet the team in Winnipeg for its game at the Jets on Saturday afternoon, but he said Thursday he was trying to fly to Washington to practice Friday.

Volpatti had been with the Canucks’ organization since the 2009-10 season.

“It’s a little bit of a mixed emotion at first getting put on waivers,” he said. “Obviously at first it wasn’t a very thrilling thing. But I’m moving on to a new opportunity here and I’ll hopefully play a little bit of a bigger role, so that’s exciting for me.”

Volpatti’s agent, Peter Cooney, described him as “hard-nosed.”

“He brings a lot of grit. He’s fearless and he plays detailed hockey and will really bang the opposition,” said Cooney, who also represents Caps right wing Joel Ward. “He’s an intelligent hockey player, he’s fearless and he’s not afraid to drop the mitts. …

“Sometimes they call him the train because he runs over people.”

Volpatti said he’s not much of a staged fight kind of guy. But he knows what his role is.

“I’m not going to say I haven’t been a part of them because sometimes when you play limited ice time you want to contribute in some way and sometimes that’s an option,” he said. “For me, I like to play the game hard and I like to be physical and cause frustration. And if some of the physical stuff and fights happen because of that, I’m fine with that.”

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