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Defenceman Joe Corvo joins list of Ottawa Senators so-so signings

The 29-year-old defenceman likely figured he'd hit the jackpot by inking a US$10.5-million, four-year deal with Ottawa on July 1 and the Senators just as likely thought he'd help to offset the loss of Zdeno Chara to Boston. Instead, by Corvo's own admission, it's been a rocky marriage so far.

He's slid down the Senators' depth chart to become one of the highest-paid third-line defencemen in the NHL and his signing rivals general manager John Muckler's securing of backup goaltender Martin Gerber to an $11.1-million, three-year deal as least wise among Ottawa fans and media.

Corvo at least found a welcome ray of sunshine Thursday night in Ottawa's 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders when he scored a goal and set up another to earn the game's first star.

It was the first time he'd managed a goal in 26 games.

"It's a bit of a weight off my shoulders," he said. "The ups and downs of this season that I've had a it's good timing right now."

With the Senators still within range of catching the Buffalo Sabres for the Northeast Division lead, an improved performance from Corvo would be welcomed by Ottawa.

After playing host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, the Senators embark on a weeklong four-game road trip that will help determine their playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Corvo was coming off career highs with 14 goals and 26 assists last season with the Kings and led all Los Angeles blue-liners with a plus-minus rating of plus-15 when he signed with the Senators.

When the native of Oak Park, Ill., arrived in Ottawa, he immediately garnered attention, if for nothing other than his tattoo-covered physique.

Ripped at six-feet, 205 pounds, he also came armed with speed and a heavy shot and the Senators had him pegged as a possible blue-line quarterback.

It didn't take him long to make a splash. He set a team record for most single-game points by a defenceman when he scored once and set up four more goals in a blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs in October.

But after the honeymoon, cracks appeared in his game.

While the physical tools may have been abundant, the mental ones seemed to be lacking.

He gave the puck away too much and was caught out of position on too many occasions, which too often tested the patience of Senators coach Bryan Murray.

"Joe just tries to do too much," Murray said earlier this season. "He tries to do more than his own job at times.

"The way people are forechecking now, it's a lot harder on the defence if you don't move the puck."

The media in Ottawa has since tagged him with the unfortunate nickname of Joe (Uh Oh) Corvo - the reaction that arises in the press box at Scotiabank Place when he begins some rather adventurous rushes from his own end.

Corvo's minutes and responsibilities have declined and he finds himself paired with another newcomer and fellow slow-starter Tom Preissing as the team's fifth and sixth defencemen.

While Preissing seems to have adapted to his limited role since arriving in a trade from the San Jose Sharks, Corvo is still on the outside looking in.

He's not part of the Senators penalty-killing unit and isn't first choice for power-play duty.

"My role over the course of the last few months has changed," he said. "I'm just trying to get to the point where I can contribute more."

To his credit, Corvo, who now has seven goals and 21 assists in 65 games, is honest about his struggles.

He says he's trying to relax more and, if the past couple of games are any indication, there may be more light ahead.

"I was putting so much pressure on myself," he said after Thursday's plus-4 performance took his plus-minus rating back into the black at plus-2 for the season. "It's nice to get a game where everything is slowed down in my head."


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