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Brent Sopel as a member of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks

Danny Moloshok

Heading into the trade deadline, the Montreal Canadiens' two glaring needs were an experienced defensive-minded defenceman and size up front.

There is now only glaring need.

Habs general manager Pierre Gauthier swung a trade to re-acquire former Hab Paul Mara from Anaheim last week, and on Thursday picked up veteran Brent Sopel from the Atlanta Thrashers along with 26-year-old forward Nigel Dawes, who will report to the Habs' AHL affiliate.

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Montreal prospect Ben Maxwell, a minor-league centre whose fortunes faded after an ineffectual stint with the big club last year, was sent the other way, along with a fourth-round draft pick.

The 34-year-old Sopel was part of the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup winner last season, and is slated to arrive in Montreal later Thursday although it's not known whether he will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sopel, who has also played in Vancouver and Los Angeles, led Atlanta defencemen in plus-minus and is seventh in the NHL in blocked shots.

The six-foot-two, 205-pounder will also add some bulk and grit to Montreal's back end, his acquisition will surely prompt speculation as to the severity of the injury suffered earlier this month by Habs' rearguard Jaroslav Spacek, who is out with an unspecified leg injury.

Montreal's blue-line has been severely taxed in recent weeks with Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges already out for the season with knee injuries.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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