New beginnings for Fehr, Poti and Capitals in ’13 season
(Photo by Brendan Sheridan)
The start of the NHL season is now upon us. It’s four months late, but finally here, and we’re counting the minutes until we can watch it unfold.
Realistically, all 30 teams have only had six days of practice as a unit to prepare for the 48-game season, so it’s safe to presume that the hockey we will be viewing is not going to be good. In fact, it will likely be terrible. Terrible hockey is better than no hockey, and if nothing else, it will at the least be entertaining.
The Washington Capitals enter the season virtually the same team they were at the end of last season. Except, not really.
Alex Semin, former “Young Gun,” skipped town for greener pastures with the Carolina Hurricanes. Maybe he wanted to meet Justin Beiber, er, Jeff Skinner. Who knows.
Dennis Wideman, also gone. Who needs him anyway? Oh, that’s right. Calgary.
Jeff Halpern signed with the Rangers, and Mike Knuble is still trying to find a home for the season, one that might be his last.
For the most part though, it’s still the same old crew, but with a few additions and unexpected familiar faces.
After Dale Hunter announced that he would not be staying in Washington, former Capital and Hall-of-Famer Adam Oates was hired as head coach over the summer.
New to the team this season are centerman Mike Ribeiro, left wings Wojtek Wolski and Joey Crabb, and defenseman Jack Hillen. If you want to know more about these guys (including how to correctly spell and pronounce their names, please refer to our friends at RMNB, who put together a wonderful tutorial).
In the unexpected familiar faces category are Eric Fehr and Tom Poti. As you probably know, Fehr played with the Winnipeg Jets last season but was sidelined with shoulder issues for much of the season. After successful surgery and playing in Finland during the lockout, Fehr is happy to be back in Washington with his former teammates after a rough road to recovery.
“I had a tough year last year and I wanted to get back playing, put it behind me,” said Fehr. “I’m real happy that I went to Finland. I was able to start playing, to start scoring again and get the confidence back up.”
Teammate Brooks Laich is one of many who are glad to see Fehr back in a Capitals sweater.
“There’s a lot of history with Eric and I and a lot of other guys in the room with Eric, too, so when he came back, there was a lot of smiles and a lot of big hugs,” Laich said. “What’s old is new again. It’s good to see him.”
Last year it appeared that defenseman Tom Poti’s career was all but over, as he spent the duration of the season on LTIR. Imagine our collective surprise at the announcement that Poti would be joining the team at training camp. Poti hadn’t played a hockey game for two years, but worked hard and focused on his recovery during that time so he could hopefully one day make his return to the ice.
Poti was sent to the Hershey Bears for a conditioning assignment, but that lasted all of two days. While in Hershey, Poti played in one game and scored a goal.
“I never knew if I was going to make it back to this point, so it’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, so to say, over the past couple years trying to get back and figure out this injury,” said Poti.
“I’ll always be grateful if I can make it back,” he said.
And now his time has come.
And as if things couldn’t come any more full-circle for Poti, he will hopefully be making his return to the ice in Tampa Bay, where he played in his last NHL game two years ago. He is listed on the roster, but there is a possibility he may sit out Saturday night.
Since being swept out of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals split their season series with the Lighting in the 2011-12 season, 3-3.
Though they missed the playoffs by eight points last season, the Lighting boasted the Rocket Richard winner, 60-goal scorer Steven Stamkos. 60 goals is an impressive feat, but not enough to drag a struggling team to the postseason.
Tampa has added some depth to their blue line with the acquisition of Sami Salo from Vancouver, a proven two-way defenseman; and Matt Carle from Philadelphia. The Capitals will have to watch out for these two on the power play - he has 55 career power-play goals and Carle boasts 17. Tampa’s number one power play unit already boasts the likes of Marty St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, Steven Stamkos.
One area where the Caps may be able advantage of the Lighting is in the crease. Goalie Anders Lindback was signed over the summer and is otherwise unproven, having only started in 28 games and played in 38 total. He backed up Pekka Rinne in Nashville and has never held the starting spot. Veteran goaltender Mathieu Garon will most likely pick up the start for the season opener, however.
It’s hard to predict how Adam Oates’ system will look in implementation on Saturday, with Ovechkin playing right wing and up top on the power play, among other things.Will Holtby be horrible? (Doubtful.) Will Jeff Schultz look like a traffic cone? (Possibly). Will Mike Green re-injure himself seven minutes into the game? (We sure hope not).
If they look terrible at first, give the guys a break. They've only had six days to learn this stuff. It will come. Let’s just hope the other guys look worse.