As the Capitals’ offense exploded against the Islanders Tuesday night in the midst of what Adam Oates called his team’s “best game” of the year, Eric Fehr could only sit and watch.
The unfortunate odd man out on the night Oates’s oft-shuffled lines finally seemed to click, the veteran forward with 58 career goals and 61 assists to his name looks doomed to be a healthy scratch until the lines unhinge again or someone gets hurt — a tough-to-swallow fate for a versatile player who’d sportingly embraced spots on the first, third, and fourth lines at points this season.
“It’s unfortunate. Obviously I want to be in the lineup, helping the team win,” Fehr said. “It’s not easy to take.”
Fehr had tallied two assists and played two of his best games of the season filling in at right wing for Alex Ovechkin in Washington’s two wins over the weekend, but the superstar’s return bumped the right-handed Fehr off the top line and left no natural fit for him in the remaining combinations as Oates saw them.
“It’s very tough. He played very good hockey over the past weekend. What you tell a guy is, ‘You have to wait your turn,” Oates said. “He did a good job, Ovi came back, we’ve got a numbers crunch at certain positions. He’s a good hockey player, and when he gets his chance, he’ll play.”
Given he’s been tried at the wing and at center at points this season, Fehr says he doesn’t know where he’ll find his way into the lineup, nor when.
“I’ve talked to [Oates], and that’s between me and the coach, but I just have to keep working hard,” Fehr said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be left, center, or right. I don’t know what to expect. I’m just coming to the rink ready to play, and when I get called, I’ll be ready.”
Being ready isn’t easy when you’re outside the forward lines, as the guys in white jerseys (those worn by fourth-line players and the extra forwards) don’t get as many practice reps as the first-line guys in red.
“Obviously we have five guys out there on the line so you’re not getting as many chances in practice,” Fehr said. ” You’ve got to find ways to stay in shape and get better in different areas.”