Highlights: Chicago 5, Washington 4
Adam Oates says it’s just an experiment, but after seeing Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward dominate many of their shifts against the Blackhawks Friday night, he might just stick with the trio as the Caps head toward their Oct. 1 season opener.
“Three big boys,” Oates said after seeing Fehr score one of the Caps’ three goals in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Hawks at VerizonCenter.
“They were grinding and had a lot of other great chances. That line is very important for our team. If you can get them minutes and they can establish a forecheck for you, that can really help on a night-to-night basis.”
The question is whether Oates is bold enough to start the season with Fehr as his third-line center. Or will he turn back to Mathieu Perreault, who appears to be sliding off the depth chart at center?
“Chimmer and Wardo for sure,” Oates said. “What we do at center we’re still trying to figure out and that’s why it’s been an experiment for Eric, because we have a logjam at right wing and we’ve got a lot of bodies at certain positions.”
The Caps’ depth chart at right wing currently reads like this:
Oates has proven to be a right-left coach, which is why he’d rather see the right-handed shooting Fehr at center than on the left side, where the Caps’ depth chart looks like this:
So, if Wilson is able to stay with the Caps – and Oates has made a strong case for that to happen – Fehr may find a home as a third-line center and that could put Perreault and left wing Aaron Volpatti on thin ice.
Wilson again was a handful Friday night, scoring a goal on a nice feed from Andre Burakovsky, who was very impressive, and punching up Kyle Beach after Beach rode him into the boards with a hip check.
“I thought he was going to hit me even up and he kind of got low,” Wilson said. “We were down at that point and I just wanted to get some energy going.”
Oates said fighting in the preseason is a “very difficult subject,” especially when it comes to Wilson, who suffered a broken knuckle in 2011-12 and had a wrist injury in 2010-11.
“When a guy is a big, strong, physical guy and it’s part of his game, you can’t tell him not to do that if a guy challenges him. You try to tell him to be smart about it.”
In three preseason games Wilson, 19, has two goals and two fights and has done everything to stay on the Caps’ roster with about a week before final roster cuts.
“I’ve got to prove to them I’m worthy of staying around,” he said. “I just need to stay humble, work hard, do the blue collar stuff and stay around as long as possible.”