When Eric Fehr gets into the goal column on the stat sheet, the Washington Capitals are a tough team to beat. In fact, in 2013, Washington is 5-0-0 when Fehr tallies a goal. Unfortunately for him and the Capitals, an upper body injury suffered against the New York Rangers on March 24 will cause Fehr to miss ice time for the foreseeable future.
WashingtonCaps.com writer, Mike Vogel, broke some unfortunate news on Saturday:
#Caps have placed RW Eric Fehr on IR and have activated defenseman Tomas Kundratek from IR.
— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) March 30, 2013
In a career that has been plagued by injuries, Fehr has had success with the Capitals when he’s been healthy. The fact that he’s headed back to the injured reserve list can’t be a good sign for him or his teammates. Through 29 games in 2013, Fehr has tallied six goals and six assists, earning him a spot on the Capitals’ second line.
While Fehr doesn’t score often, he comes in at 6’4″, 212 pounds, offering a big body presence on the ice for a team without many big bodies. His best season came back in 2009-10, under head coach Bruce Boudreau, where Fehr was able to record 21 goals to coincide with 18 assists and a plus-18 rating in 69 games played. The Capitals won the President’s Trophy that season, but were ousted by the eight-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the playoffs. Since then, Fehr played 52 games with Washington in 2010-11 and only 35 games in 2011-12 with the Winnipeg Jets.
With Fehr on injured reserve, Wojtek Wolski and Aaron Volpatti will likely share ice time. Neither player can offer what Fehr can.
Fehr is not afraid to post up and disrupt a goalie’s vision by screening him while a defender rips a slap shot from the point. The only other guy on the Capitals roster that is willing to do the same is Brooks Laich, who recently came back from an injury of his own and is not looking like his usual self just yet.
So how will this injury affect a Capitals team that is desperate for wins at this point in the season? Well, it is going to depend on how his fill-in players perform. If they act as liabilities more than assets, the Capitals will be negatively affected by Fehr’s absence. If Wolski can actually come in the game and score goals, rather than dinging pipes or missing empty nets, the Capitals may not miss Fehr too much.
Fehr is only 27 years old, so allowing him to get healthy on the IR may benefit him and the Capitals in the long-term. Not to mention, if the Capitals start dropping back in the playoff race, they would be wise to keep Fehr out of the lineup.
What continues to look like a good sign is the performance of Alexander Ovechkin in recent games. He has tallied eight goals in his last nine games, giving him 17 on the season. He leads the league in power play goals with 11, as the Capitals have the top-ranked extra-man unit in the NHL. If Ovechkin continues to score the way he has been, role players, such as Eric Fehr, won’t be relied upon as much to fill the goal scoring void.
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Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.