Tarik's article in today's WaPo focuses on the return of Eric Fehr to the Caps. Fehr, the 18th overall pick in the 2003 draft, has been a vaunted prospect in the Capitals organization for a handful of years. Fehr has only played ten games in Hershey this season, after suffering a herniated disk that kept him out of hockey for nearly a year.
With only those ten games in the AHL this season, Fehr comes to the Capitals with a lot of pressure on that recently healed back. The Capitals are in desperate need of scoring from someone not named Ovechkin, and they are hoping Fehr is that person. Fehr is ready to take up the challenge:
If it's Fehr's time to put up or shut up, the same goes for the Capitals. After Boudreau's Thanksgiving Day takeover the Caps have gone 18-10-4. In theory that looks okay, but in the tight SE Division (and after a slow start), the Caps need to be winning a solid 2/3 of their games to make the playoffs. And even more importantly, they need to be winning against their SE Division rivals.
Fehr finally returned to Hershey's lineup on Jan. 9 against the Norfolk Admirals and recorded an assist on his first shift. He has played in 10 games for the Bears, amassing two goals and four assists.
"I've taken a few hits and I given a few hits," Fehr said. "I've rolled around on the ice battling. It's like nothing ever happened to me. . . . Now it's time to put up or shut up."
Sounds like nothing the Caps and the fans dont know, right? But in the words of Eric Fehr, its time to put up or shut up. The last and toughest stretch of the season has just begun. The Caps kicked it off with a loss to the Thrashers, after Ovie's heoric performance saved them in a tight game against the Habs just a few nights earlier. But even AO cant save the team every single night, and if the Caps are going to remain in the playoff hunt, fellow first liners, along with second and third liners, need to start putting up some numbers. Enter Eric Fehr.
Its not fair to put all the burden on Fehr's shoulders, but the Caps are desperately hoping he can be an offensive spark. Chris Clark was one of the few Caps to crash the net and grind out some gritty goals. Brooks Laich has already matched his career high in goals from last season (8), but he, Boyd Gordon and Dave Steckel are going to have to work harder to step into the hole left by indefinitely injured Clark. Victor Kozlov has overcome his slow start to the season with 11 points in his last 10 games, but with Fehr's call up, he will become the second line pivot. For the Caps to be successful, Kozlov needs to continue that pace with Flash and Semin on wing. Caps fans can only hope that his switch back to the second line will set off Semin, who has been centered largely by Gordon since Michael Nylander's mid-season exit with a shoulder injury. And with the return of Shaone Morissonn, a confident Mike Green should start racking up points again.
For the Caps to extend their playoff hopes, they have the perfect opportunity to beat up on their SE rivals over the next two months. The Caps have 29 games left and nearly half are against SE Division teams. Thats a departure for the Caps, who have largely been playing outside the SE Division in December and January, when Bruce Bodreau took the reins. So for the Capitals, the next two months are their time to put up or be shut up.