RALEIGH — It was just moments before the opening faceoff last week when Ray Whitney found himself side by side with Scott Walker.
"You've got to love it, being here," Whitney said.
"It's tough not to," Walker replied.
For Walker, "here" was a place on the Washington Capitals. It's tough not to be pumped about being a part of a dynamic team that leads the Eastern Conference and could well win the Stanley Cup.
Until March 3, Whitney and Walker were teammates with the Carolina Hurricanes. When Walker scored the overtime goal that beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their playoff series last year, it was Whitney who not only had the primary assist but gave Walker one of the long est postgame hugs.
"We had some great times together and some disappoint ing times, too," Walker said.
A few too many of the disappointing times came this season, though.
On March 3, the NHL trade deadline, the Canes sent Walker to the Caps for a seventh-round draft pick.
Then, just before the 3 p.m. deadline, Carolina dealt defenseman Joe Corvo to the Caps for defenseman Brian Pothier, prospect Oskar Osala and a second-round pick.
Just like that, Walker and Corvo became the new guys in the room, thrust into the midst of a team winning big. A week later, the Caps and Canes faced off at the Verizon Center in Washington. Tonight, they go at it again although it will be a little different as Corvo and Walker return to the RBC Center.
"I need to make sure I go to the right bench," Walker quipped.
Corvo was traded by the Ottawa Senators to the Hurricanes in February 2008, then played with an inner rage every time he was on the ice against the Sens. Not so with the Canes, he said.
"I got no sympathy from anyone there [in Ottawa] when I was traded," Corvo said. "This time, it was the right move for the [Carolina] organization to make. I don't feel I have as much to prove as with Ottawa.
"Ottawa never gave me the chance to do all the things I can do. Carolina was great to me and gave me that opportunity."
As for Whitney, Corvo also said it was good to see the veteran winger last week.
"Just look at Ray and I giggle," he said, smiling.
It's not as if the Caps needed extra players. But in Walker, they added a gritty forward with playoff experience but also the quintessential "character" guy.
"He's at a point in his career where it's not about him. He's the perfect playoff guy," Canes coach Paul Maurice said.
In Corvo, the Caps have another puck-mover with speed and power-play punch, but also, Maurice said, underrated as a defender.
"There's a lot more to Joe's game than people appreciate," Maurice said. "He became a really solid guy for us."
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau once coached Corvo in the American Hockey League, and he had seen what Walker gave the Canes. The transition to a new team, he believed, would be an easy one, and it has been.
"So far they've done really well, and I anticipate them doing well," Boudreau said. "Scott Walker is such a professional, and I've known Joe for a long time and know he can be a little different. He doesn't talk a lot. That's his personality."
"He hasn't played as much as he's used to playing - he's used to playing 25 minutes [at Carolina]. But it's tough to get those kind of minutes when you have Mike Green and [Alex Ovechkin] on the power play."
Walker, 36, has played in four of seven games for the Caps. He scored two goals in his first game with the Caps, an unexpected outburst that caused him and Boudreau to smile Wednesday when it was mentioned.
"Today, he was doing a shooting drill and I told him, 'Maybe you need to go to your backhand and go between your legs for it to work,' " Boudreau said, joking. "But he's such a professional and he's going to be such a good depth guy.
"I watched him in the playoffs. Carolina, with him there, he always comes up with big plays. And he's such a gamer, which is the reason we went after him."
Walker already has gotten some ribbing about his problems using the Washington Metro system. The old pro got lost a time or two but still knows his way around the ice.
"And if you can't have fun playing on a team like this, playing with some of the elite in the league, when can you have fun?" Walker said. "The guys are so loose. They're such as easy group to get along.
"It just an exciting time to be a part of the Washington Capitals."
Which, in fact, was just what Whitney said to him last week.
email@example.com or 919-829-8945