- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

OTTAWA The Washington Capitals' brain trust felt a piece was missing from the puzzle. It had assembled a scary offensive array, an adequate and improving defense, an All-Star goalie.
What it was lacking, the thinking went, was a pest a nasty, in-your-face, confrontational player.
So the Caps welcomed back Trent Whitfield from Portland of the American Hockey League yesterday. He is not a guy who dazzles you with his moves or puts up big numbers, but when it comes to stopping the opposition, he'll stand out.
"We've been trying to build a fourth line," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We've used different elements all year, and he adds an element of energy, faceoff ability. We want to pair that with Brian Sutherby and find another piece that can shut other teams down. Then we think we'll have two really good offensive lines: We have the Jeff Halpern line that's our shut-down line but can still score, and we'd have another line we could use more for energy purposes."
Whitfield is a Tie Domi type, though he usually doesn't get quite that physical. He constantly sticks his nose in places it isn't wanted, constantly disturbing the peace with subtle little pokes and jabs. He is precisely the type of player other players hate to play against but love to have on their side.
But he is also more than that. In 95 NHL games, Whitfield has a positive plus-minus rating despite accumulating only seven points not an easy thing to do. He has earned that through tough, grind-it-out defensive play nothing flashy but a necessary ingredient for any team hoping for success.
Whitfield also is good at winning faceoffs, an area in which the Caps have been weak since the departure of Adam Oates and Andrei Nikolishin.
The downside to the addition of Whitfield: He is the Caps' third recall (after Stephen Peat and Josef Boumedienne), leaving the team with just one available before the end of the first round of the playoffs.
"I don't think it's going to be a problem," Cassidy said, pointing out that the Caps have two spare defensemen (Rick Berry and J.F. Fortin; Ken Klee is recovering from a bruised foot) and four spare forwards (Peat, Alex Henry, Josh Green and Ivan Ciernik).
"Whitfield's a different type of player than the others, and maybe we wanted to get away from that and get more of a dirt-bag type of player," Cassidy said.
The move causes ripple effects that Cassidy hopes to solve by game time every night. Sergei Berezin is on the Whitfield line, but it's unlikely he was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trading deadline with that positioning in mind.
But putting Berezin there creates an endless amount of moves. If a player on one of the first two lines isn't having a good night, Berezin can take another spot.

Notes Klee, who stopped a shot with the big toe on his right foot in the Vancouver debacle Sunday night, returned to the District yesterday for an MRI and more treatment. Whatever the results, he's expected to play Tuesday. … Olie Kolzig on clinching a playoff spot: "You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed. … That sounded stupid, didn't it?"

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