- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2013

Aaron Volpatti knows his role quite well. “Get in on the forecheck and make life miserable for the other team,” he said.

Call Volpatti an instigator, an agitator, a pest. After the Washington Capitals claimed him off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, the forward hopes he can provide some toughness and physicality.

The 27-year-old, who could make his Caps debut Saturday afternoon at the Winnipeg Jets, has just three goals and one assist in 54 NHL games. But Volpatti has 81 penalty minutes in that time, including 11 fights.

“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.”

At 6 feet and 215 pounds, Volpatti is correct not to consider himself a heavyweight. And he’s not big on staged fights, even if he has taken part in some as a way of firing up his teammates.

“I’m more of a fan of a big hit happening and something spur of the moment,” said Volpatti, who will join the Caps in Winnipeg on Friday. “That’s what I kind of pride myself, my game, on.”

Through a team spokesman, general manager George McPhee deferred comment on claiming Volpatti to coach Adam Oates, who will address the situation Friday after the Caps’ day off. Volpatti said he spoke briefly with McPhee and Oates after being claimed and hopes to get more ice time than he did in Vancouver (7:18 a game).

“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, said Oates and his staff “will enjoy the detailed, intelligent hockey that he plays.” But it’s his physical game that justifiably garners the attention.

“Sometimes they call him the train because he runs over people,” Cooney said. “He brings a lot of grit. He’s fearless and he plays detailed hockey and will really bang the opposition. He’s an intelligent hockey player, he’s fearless and he’s not afraid to drop the mitts.”

Grubauer sent back to Hershey

Goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer made his NHL debut Wednesday night, stopping all 14 shots he faced against the Philadelphia Flyers after replacing starter Braden Holtby. It was unexpected timing for the 21-year-old, who was with the Caps only because Michal Neuvirth was too sick to be in uniform.

Even coming in mop-up time in a 4-1 loss didn’t make the night any less special.

“It was a dream come true. I dreamed about this since I started playing hockey,” Grubauer said. “It was amazing. I try to step up and give those guys confidence and show the organization that I can do something as well.”

Grubauer showed the Caps a glimpse of his talent, but then on Thursday he was sent back to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League along with forward Casey Wellman, as expected. Grubauer had been called up using a 23-man roster goalie exemption.

Holtby figures to get the start Saturday at the Jets after giving up four goals on 18 shots against the Flyers.

“It’s four goals. He’s played great for us,” Oates said of Holtby, who’s 5-3 in eight straight starts. “Just like everybody, he’s going to take his lumps, too. You’ve got to bounce back for Winnipeg.”

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