Rookies learn from Capitals season opener
Marty Erat has played in 732 NHL games and has 484 career points -- most of them as a top-six right wing with the Nashville Predators.
At 32 years old, he doesn’t believe his game should be judged on a few preseason games at two positions he’s hardly ever played in his career – left wing and center.
In Tuesday night’s season opener in Chicago, Erat played the left side on a fourth line with center Michael Latta and Tom Wilson, each of whom were making their NHL regular season debuts.
Erat received 9:01 of ice time, recorded one shot and went 0-for-1 in the faceoff circle.
On Wednesday he openly wondered where he fits into Adam Oates’ plans.
“I don’t know,” Erat said. “He didn’t talk to me and I have no idea what the plan is right now. It’s hard. I have no idea the reason I’m there where I am.
“If you play 11 years in the league I don’t think you lose your position because of three or four games in the preseason.”
Erat was acquired from the Predators, along with Latta, prior to last year’s trade deadline in exchange for first-round draft pick Filip Forsberg. He has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $4.5 million a season, the same cap hit Brooks Laich is carrying for the next four years.
“I’m going to do what’s best for the team,” Erat said. “Like, I’m not going to decide I need to go and scream somewhere. It’s between me and [Oates] and we’ll see how it goes.”
With Laich playing left wing on a second line with center Mikhail Grabovski and right wing Troy Brouwer, and Eric Fehr centering a third line with left wing Jason Chimera and right wing Joel Ward, Oates admitted he’s trying to figure out where to use Erat and hopes the veteran forward understands that.
“I hope he does, and that’s why you’ve got to communicate with him,” Oates said. “We have to touch base and things have to be explained so guys don’t start wondering.”
Oates said that if Laich remains healthy he’ll need to decide where Erat best fits into the lineup. In the meantime, Latta and Wilson commended Erat for his professionalism Tuesday night.
Latta said Erat sat down with the two rookies on the flight home from Chicago and went over video clips of what the line could do better if they are together again on Thursday night, when the Caps play their home opener against the Calgary Flames.
“For a veteran like him to put up with two kids like he did, he was great,” Latta said. “He’s just a tremendous leader, a real quality person and a really calming guy. It was a tough building to go into for your first NHL game and he really made things a lot easier for both of us.
“I played with Marty in Nash and he’s earned everything in his career with all he’s done.”