Forward making most of second opportunity in Washington
All Eric Fehr wanted was another chance.
Coming off a failed season and another shoulder injury, the 27-year-old forward entered the NHL lockout filled with uncertainty. He was an unsigned free agent and wasn't sure whether he even would have a job when the labor battle finally ended.
Fehr, traded by the Capitals to Winnipeg after the 2010-11 season, spent the lockout in Finland trying to find his scoring touch. That move worked with 13 goals and 12 assists in 21 games with HPK Hameenlinna in that country's SM-liiga. The Caps decided they could use some depth on the wing and signed Fehr the day before training camp opened.
|Capitals at Lightning|
|When » Thursday, 7:30 p.m.|
|Where » Tampa Bay Times|
|Forum, Tampa, Fla.|
|TV » CSN|
After being held scoreless through his first eight games of the regular season, Fehr was given a crack on the third line at left wing by coach Adam Oates. That was an adjustment on the fly for a player who has spent most of his career at right wing. But so far it has paid off.
"It wasn't as bad as I expected," Fehr said of the move to left wing. "It's tougher in the [defensive] zone with pucks, and it's tougher to see guys coming at you. But once you get in the offensive end and in the neutral zone, it's pretty much the same game."
Fehr has a goal and two assists in two games playing with center Mathieu Perreault and right wing Joel Ward. His goal Tuesday against the Florida Panthers was a critical one that brought Washington within 5-4 with 5:07 left. The Caps eventually won it 6-5 in overtime.
"Every player wants more minutes, obviously," Fehr said. "I want to prove that I'm useful on the ice, and I want to create a lot of opportunities offensively and find a way to get on the power play and help the team in that way."
Fehr didn't see any power-play time Tuesday. But he did top 13 minutes of ice time for the second game in a row. He's playing a grittier game. As soon as he saw Perreault win a battle against two Panthers and poke the puck out to the point, Fehr took off from the right boards and skated hard to the net. That was even before defenseman Mike Green had time to tee up a pass. When he finally did, Fehr was alone in front to tip the puck in for the goal. He also assisted on Karl Alzner's one-timer in the second period.
"Just looking for some sort of chemistry and trying to find some offense through the lineup," Oates said earlier this week. "I'm still learning a lot of the players. And, really, I thought Eric has played well, and I wanted to try and get him some more minutes."
The third line's recent performance should provide that trio with another shot in Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Washington (4-8-1, nine points) remains in last place in the Eastern Conference despite two consecutive wins. But Tampa Bay (6-5-1, 13 points) is struggling with five straight losses, including four in regulation.