Forward Eric Fehr continued to inch closer to rejoining the Washington Capitals for their second-round matchup with the New York Rangers, skating with strength coach Mark Nemish before practice Wednesday morning before traveling with the team for Games 1 and 2.
“He’s skating, he’s going to make the trip,” Coach Barry Trotz said.
Fehr appeared poised to practice, arriving on the ice alongside his teammates and dressed in a white sweater, but spent several minutes performing skating drills with Nemish on one side of the ice. Then, when the Capitals moved onto the other ice sheet for the first half of their practice, Fehr stayed behind, working on his puck-handling.
Fehr suffered the upper-body injury, evidently in the left shoulder area, on a check from forward Kyle Okposo during the Capitals’ Game 3 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. The hit occurred less than four minutes into the first period and Fehr never returned.
Trotz said this injury was unrelated to the other shoulder issues Fehr had experienced in the past, including one nagging problem that sidelined him for the final three games of the regular season.
Asked whether Fehr’s recovery had progressed on schedule, Trotz replied, “Yeah, I think so.”
Since Fehr did not practice before the team traveled to New York, he will almost certainly be unavailable for Game 1. Asked whether Fehr was a possibility for Game 2, Trotz replied, “Don’t know. Not going to answer that one.”
Trotz explains returning Grubauer to Hershey
The dominoes began falling once the Capitals made the critical decision to recall Philipp Grubauer for Game 2 against the Islanders, Trotz said, leading them to carry three goaltenders for the duration of the series. After Grubauer made 18 saves in the home win, Trotz felt Grubauer deserved to stay and back up starter Braden Holtby for Games 3-7, leaving Justin Peters as a healthy scratch watching from the press box.
Tuesday afternoon, the Capital reassigned Grubauer to Hershey, where the Bears are one win from sweeping Worcester in their first-round playoff series. Trotz explained the move as follows:
“I had to make a decision based on what I thought and I thought [Grubauer] being more active would help us in that game and made that decision,” Trotz said, referring to Grubauer’s recent playing experience in Hershey, whereas Peters last started Feb. 15. “We were able to win the game. I think we played well enough, but at the same time I think Petey would’ve got it done as well.
“Once I made that decision, it sort of set it up for the rest of the series. Now it’s time to reset. Petey’s worked on his game all year and he’s been an absolute pro, and sometimes you have to make hard decisions and I made one, and fortunately it worked out for us. Now he’s back in the fold and Petey’s back to where he should be and we’ll get Grubauer back playing.”
According to reports from Hershey, Pheonix Copley – who anchored two road wins in Worcester last weekend – was first off the ice at the team’s morning skate, most likely meaning Grubauer will back up Game 3 for the Bears.
Orlov unlikely for the playoffs
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, exactly four weeks removed from the completion of his minor-league conditioning loan, remains in limbo with the Capitals, still listed on long-term injured reserve but perfectly healthy. He continues to practice and travel with the team but watch from the press box. With six able defensemen and Orlov without an NHL game since last April, Trotz said it has become increasingly difficult to find room for him.
“Yeah I think so right now, but who knows,” Trotz said, when asked if it no longer seemed reasonable to fit Orlov into the lineup at this juncture. “I remember a few years back the Flyers put a goaltender in who hadn’t played for about three months in the Stanley Cup finals. Never say never, but right now there’s no reason to.”
Yandle, Klein both expected for the Rangers
Lineup news from the Big Apple:
Should be no issues either for Keith Yandle, who is expected to play Game 1.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) April 29, 2015
AV, who doesn’t discuss lineup decisions during the playoffs, says he expects Kevin Klein in lineup for Game 1, unless something changes.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) April 29, 2015
Klein had been sidelined since March 11, when a puck shot by forward Alex Ovechkin broke his arm; Yandle was listed with “overall body soreness” before Coach Alain Vigneault joked that he had “sniffles.”
To account for life without top-line forward Mats Zuccarello, out indefinitely with a suspected concussion after taking a puck to the head, the Rangers moved veteran Martin St. Louis onto their top trio beside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard.