With a struggling Marcus Johansson sidelined with an upper body injury and Brooks Laich not yet cleared for contact, forwards Mathieu Perreault and Eric Fehr are being called upon to do more.
In Saturday’s 5-0 win against the Florida Panthers, Perreault was flanked by Fehr and Joel Ward on the Capitals’ third line and the trio responded with a combined two goals and five points.
“When you first look at [Perreault],” head coach Adam Oates explained, “people said to me ‘He’s a fancy player’. And while he does have good skill, the two goals they got came off cycles, from work. Their line looked like every shift that’s what they’re doing. The pretty plays in the game of hockey are so rare now, you’ve got to be willing to work and play 200 feet. That’s what he did and that’s what their line did and that’s what I liked.”
Fehr was a healthy scratch for the first three games this season and has played primarily on the Capitals’ fourth line when he has been in the lineup. Perreault meanwhile was recently a healthy scratch for five straight games after complaining of a lack of ice-time earlier this season.
“There’s no Marcus on the ice, but at the same time it’s another chance for me,” said Perreault, who had a career-high 16 goals and 30 points in 64 games last season.
“I think last year same thing happened [with Nicklas Backstrom]. Nicky got a concussion and they gave me [ice time]. So, yeah, I think I’ve been showing that when guys get hurt, if they need help I’m always there to jump in and I’m always ready to go to help the team when there’s guys that are hurt.”
Between them, Perreault, Ward and Fehr combined for just three shots on goal, but just as Oates was impressed with the cycle and work ethic of the newly assembled trio, Ward was also impressed with the amount of time the unit spent in Florida’s end.
“As long as you're inside their blue line and trapping them in, you're moving around so much that if you're not playing defense in your own zone, we'll be fine,” Ward said.
“That’s the mentality we're going to have: I guess they say the best defense is a good offense, and we can kind of just press them in that way and we'll be fine.”
As for Fehr, the former 20-goal scorer recorded his first point of the season (a secondary assist on Ward’s team-leading fifth goal) in Saturday’s 5-0 win against Florida and skated a season-high 13:07.
“I want to prove that I’m useful on the ice and I want to create a lot of opportunities offensively and find a way to get on the power play and help the team in that way,” said Fehr, who had seven powerplay goals and 19 power play points with the Caps from 2008-11.
“I’ve been a power play guy in the past and I’ve got to show that I can be offensive five-on-five to find my way onto the power play.”