The Washington Capitals' five-game, eight-day trip was far from flawless. But what emerged was a steadiness in play, individually and collectively, that has often been lacking this season. By finishing 3-2-0 during that stretch and going 5-4-0 in its last nine contests, Washington trails the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning by one point.

"I knew this was a very important part of our schedule and I think it was a success," Coach Bruce Boudreau said following the Capitals' 1-0 victory Monday night against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. "I think our better players have been more consistent, our power play has scored in three straight games now, which is a good sign, and we're getting healthy."

How long Washington can maintain that even-keeled approach remains to be seen, however, as the team has not strung together a winning streak of more than three games since late November. Whether General Manager George McPhee will make a move and acquire a player to help the Capitals get over that hump is uncertain.

With less than a week remaining before the NHL's trading deadline on Monday at 3 p.m., Washington is the only team among the top five in the Eastern Conference standings that has not made a trade this month. Pittsburgh picked up James Neal and Matt Niskanen on Monday, Boston acquired Tomas Kaberle and Rich Peverley, among others, Philadelphia increased its depth with Kris Versteeg and Tampa Bay added veteran Eric Brewer to its blue line, all in the last two weeks.

McPhee has always preferred to keep his trade-deadline plans close to the vest, but several league sources said the Capitals are actively pursing options for a two-way center to help anchor the second line. Adding defensive depth, given injury concerns to Tom Poti and Mike Green, or perhaps another goal-scorer to jumpstart the dormant offense are possibilities as well.

While McPhee weighs his options, the current roster appears to be growing into its defensive mind-set. The Capitals would, of course, like to see a little more offensive production to ease the burden placed on the goaltender or defense in any given contest, but confidence in their defensive abilities continues to rise. In the last 14 games, Washington has given up more than three goals only twice and more than two only five times.