Senators defenceman Joe Corvo makes big splash with new team

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The Sens acquired Corvo after star blue-liner Zdeno Chara signed with the Boston Bruins during the off-season instead of returning to the Senators. And the 29-year-old Corvo has been the spark of a resurgent Senators team, which faces the six-foot-nine Chara for the first time this season Saturday night in Boston.

Playing just his fourth game of the season because of a fractured foot suffered in pre-season, the former Los Angeles King set a Senators record for a defenceman Thursday with five points (one goal, four assists) in a 7-2 drubbing of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He was named the game's first star and opened some eyes in the process.

"I'm just trying to leave it all out there and if people notice, people notice," Corvo said Friday following practice.

The native of Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, spent three seasons with the Kings and set career highs with 14 goals and 26 assists last year. But playing on the West Coast made him a virtual unknown in these parts - at least for his on-ice achievements.

Off the ice, Corvo had earned a degree of notoriety as a member of the American Hockey League's Manchester Monarchs after pleading guilty to assaulting a woman outside a Boston nightclub in 2002. He was given a three-year suspended sentence, and ordered to participate in counselling and community service.

Considering that Chara was a former Norris Trophy finalist and fan favourite, he wasn't the easiest man to replace when the Senators inked the six-foot, 205-pound Corvo to a four-year, $10.5-million US deal July 1.

The Senators were hoping that he and Tom Preissing, acquired in a trade with the San Jose Sharks, would be part of a defence-by-committee approach that would offset the loss of Chara.

When he arrived in training camp, Corvo, with his streak of dyed blond hair and tattoo-covered torso, certainly caught people's attention, but it wasn't until he hit the ice that people really started to take notice.

With Preissing still trying to find his feet and Wade Redden off to a slow start, Corvo has emerged as Ottawa's top defenceman since returning to the lineup after missing the first five games.

"A lot of players that have played in the other conference are really unknowns in a lot of cases and, Joe being one of them, there's no question that fans saw what he could do (Thursday)," Senators coach Bryan Murray said before leaving for Boston.

"He's a quality player. He's quick and he passes the puck extremely well and he is a battler. That's really obvious that he loves the ice time and the opportunity to play and really challenge people with and without the puck."

Even Murray, who, as general manager with Anaheim, competed opposite Corvo in the Pacific Division, admits he didn't fully know what the Senators were getting.

"What I didn't know about him was that he was such a competitive person," Murray said. "I saw him play, I knew he had a great shot and a good skill level, but watching him in practice as well as games, this guy is a real competitive person."

With Corvo in the lineup to provide a spark, the Senators have won three out of four games. Their offence, stagnating with 10 goals through the opening five games, has exploded for 22 in the four he has played, including 21 in the last three outings.

Ottawa's power play was a dismal 1-for-30 without him, but has gone 4-for-20 with him involved.

"It's a little bit that we're playing with a little more confidence and we're playing better, but a lot has to do with the fact that he's come back and helped us out, too," centre Jason Spezza said. "He brings a big element to our team u he's athletic, he moves the puck well, he's always looking to come up in the rush and he's got a big shot."

The loss of Chara left the Senators without a shutdown defenceman and Corvo said he still needs to improve on the defensive end of things.

Ideally, the Senators hope he'll emerge as a player like Chris Chelios, whom Corvo followed while growing up in Chicago.

"I don't want to be known as a guy who can only score, because the longevity of a career like that isn't very long," he said.

But in the meantime, after flying under the radar in Los Angeles, he'll take the accolades these days. Corvo still seems stunned at times by the amount of reporters that are lining up to talk to him, especially after Thursday night's performance.

"It's a lot of fun - putting up, six, seven, eight goals like that, it's fun for everybody," he said. "It's a huge difference (from Los Angeles). I think there are three or four, maybe five reporters, and you only see them once in a while. Here, it's every day there are people in the locker-room and it's fun. It keep you sharp, it keeps you thinking. I like it."


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