Capitals Hope Fehr Is An Offensive Remedy

Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau broke up his first line, replacing Viktor Kozlov with right wing Eric Fehr, above.
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau broke up his first line, replacing Viktor Kozlov with right wing Eric Fehr, above. (By Mitchell Layton -- Getty Images)
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

After being shut out in two of the past three games, the Washington Capitals recalled Eric Fehr in the hopes the injury-plagued prospect can spark the team's sagging offense.

Fehr, a 22-year-old right wing, practiced on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom yesterday and could receive significant ice time tonight against Rick Nash (26 goals) and the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. It would be Fehr's first NHL action since a herniated disk forced him to the sideline last February.

"I'm back to 100 percent," Fehr said after practice. "I've played the last 10 games [with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League] and I've felt great and there's been no issues."

Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau hopes Fehr's fresh legs and fearlessness in front of the net will give his team the boost it needs after scoring a total of nine goals in the past five games (2-3-0). Fehr will displace Viktor Kozlov, who has moved to center on the second line, a unit that has lacked a playmaking pivot since Michael Nylander underwent season-ending surgery last month. Kozlov will skate between Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin.

"It's a gamble," Boudreau said of dismantling the productive Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov line. "But we believe we have to spread the scoring out to be successful."

Ovechkin acknowledged that a shakeup was necessary, adding: "Me and Kozy and Backie play together a long time. But Coach is right. We have to play more than one line. We need two or three lines that can score goals."

Ovechkin, the league's leading scorer with 43 goals and 70 points, has either scored or assisted on eight of the Capitals' past nine goals dating from a 3-2 loss in Toronto on Jan. 23.

After Saturday's 2-0 loss to Ilya Kovalchuk-less Atlanta, Boudreau praised Kari Lehtonen's 36-save performance but also was critical of his team's failure to create havoc in front of the Thrashers' crease.

Fehr, a 6-foot-4, 212-pounder from Winkler, Manitoba, should help in that department. He has two goals in 25 NHL games.

"The one thing I've always known about pure goal scorers is they'll dive in front of the net if there's a loose puck, and go to the net, and get goals that bounce off of their knees," Boudreau said. "The guys who aren't scorers say, 'Oh jeez, what a lucky guy.' But they make their own breaks. Eric is one of those guys."

Fehr last played for the Capitals on Feb. 21 after attempting to play through the pain, a decision he now regrets because, in retrospect, he said, it likely exacerbated the problem.

For months, Fehr's injury mystified team doctors and outside specialists. He said he received as many as 10 cortisone shots. By April, he struggled just to get out of bed.

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