- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — If there were any question about how Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon would use new defenseman Tom Poti, Tuesday night was a pretty definitive answer.

Poti logged a team high 27 minutes, 21 seconds in the Caps’ 3-2 win against Carolina. Whether it was at even strength, quarterbacking the power play or anchoring a penalty killing unit, Hanlon showed he hasn’t needed much time in training camp to put his trust in Poti.

“We knew he was really good, but all the coaches have really commented on how good he has been for us,” Hanlon said. “He’s been a really solid player, and he seems like he is just hitting his stride here. … I think all successful teams have that one go-to guy who can play in all key situations.”

When the NHL free agency period started July 1, Poti was the first player to sign with the Caps after one season with the New York Islanders. He had six goals and a career-high 38 assists with the Islanders. His 25:42 of average ice time was 11th in the NHL, as were his 32 power-play points.

Not long after the signing period opened at noon July 1, Poti had inked his name to a four-year, $14 million contract. Caps captain Chris Clark phoned Poti before he made his final decision.

“I just wanted to give him the heads up on anything he wanted to know about the area or about the team and any questions he had during his deciding process,” Clark said. “He grew up in Worcester [Mass.], which was about 45 minutes from where I grew up, and we played against each other growing up. I’d see him in the summer because I lived in Boston for seven summers. We worked out together at times.”

One area in which Poti will be counted on heavily is on the power play. Last season the Caps were 24th in the league with a 16.4 percent conversion rate.

As the quarterback on the power play, Poti will be expected to help direct the extra-man unit’s flow inside the offensive zone. His ability to carry the puck into the zone and the team setup also will be a welcome addition after the Caps struggled mightily with that at times last season.

“I feel like I can see the ice and make plays and try to find guys,” Poti said. “[I] just try to slow things down and kind of set it up and be a calming influence out there.”

Added Clark: “You can waste a minute or more if you have to chase it around and then have to go back to the other end and get it. If we can get in the zone and set it up, it saves a lot of time.”

While Poti has proved to be a well-conditioned, minute-eating defenseman, he has to be careful with his eating habits. Poti is severely allergic to several foods, including peanuts, fish and anything with MSG.

Coming into contact with any of those foods can catapult him into anaphylactic shock, so he carries a syringe filled with epinephrine with him at all times.

“It is something I’ve dealt with my whole life, and to be honest I don’t know any other way,” Poti said. “[New teammates] all have the normal questions like, ‘How do you deal with that? How do you not eat this or that?’ If I’ve never had it, I don’t really know what I am missing.”

Maybe he is used to it, but is there one thing he misses, one food he might crave every now and then?

“Probably chocolate — I’ve never had chocolate before,” Poti said. “Everyone seems to like that, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it. That’s probably something I’d like to try some day.”

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