ARLINGTON, Va. -- Eric Fehr
spent the summer before last season with both of his arms immobilized because of surgeries on both shoulders. His wife had to help him with even the simplest of tasks.
So when he collided with Washington Capitals
teammate David Steckel
on Jan. 14 and felt his shoulder pop out of place, forgive him if he was momentarily gripped by fear.
"I knew it wasn't great. I was worried about it," Fehr said. "It took a lot longer to come back than I expected, but I am back playing and I am hoping that problem is behind me and I can just continue playing."
Fehr originally hoped to only miss 3-4 weeks, but he ended up being sidelined for nearly two months. The total damage ended up being 22 games -- more than a quarter of a season for an unfortunate accident.
The two teammates were going in opposite directions during a line change, something both have done countless times during their hockey careers. Normally it is a harmless routine in a hockey game -- guys skate to the bench and guys skate away from it, passing each other along the way.
"It was just a bad situation. I've taken big hits all season long and nothing has happened, but I got put in a bad spot and my shoulder went out. It makes it more frustrating. I thought I had that all behind me with the surgeries. I was clear for about a year-and-a-half with no symptoms. I was getting excited that it wouldn't happen again, but that kind of came out of the woodwork." -- Eric Fehr
Fehr's arm was tucked in front of him and when he collided with Steckel, his shoulder was pushed up and back.
"It was just a bad situation. I've taken big hits all season long and nothing has happened, but I got put in a bad spot and my shoulder went out," Fehr said. "It makes it more frustrating. I thought I had that all behind me with the surgeries. I was clear for about a year-and-a-half with no symptoms. I was getting excited that it wouldn't happen again, but that kind of came out of the woodwork.
"We were both going really quick, really fast and we both didn't see each other and I didn't have time to react. I ended up hitting (Steckel) in the head with my helmet and almost knocked him out, so that could have been a real messy play."
Fehr finally returned to the lineup Wednesday and scored a pair of goals for the Capitals in a 5-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers
. It gives him 10 for the season, but he wasn't on pace to match his career-best total of 21 from last season even before the injury.
A stretch of strong play from Fehr could be quite a coup for the Capitals, who have not scored goals with the same frequency as last season. Washington enters Friday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes
22nd in the League with 2.65 goals per game -- one season after setting the pace at 3.82 goals per gamer.
"He was a big part of our depth scoring last year and now when we're not scoring as many goals, to have another goal scorer back in our lineup is a great addition to our team," teammate Brooks Laich
said. "He's not going to score 2 goals every single night, but to come back after missing 22 games and get two -- it is awesome. He gets one on the power play and our power play had been struggling and there's been plenty of stories about that. We get a 20-goal scorer back in our lineup and a guy with good size, good wheels, good hands and a really good shot."
Added Fehr: "It was an exciting night. I was excited to be back playing and I was hoping to be able to contribute, but that was awesome."
Washington still will be without two of its top offensive weapons Friday. Defenseman Mike Green
is out until at least March 22 because of multiple head injuries (a puck off the ear and a hit from New York Rangers
forward Derek Stepan
), and center Nicklas Backstrom
will miss his second straight game with a thumb injury.
This is the start of an important stretch for the Capitals, one that likely will decide if a fourth straight Southeast Division championship is going to be the end result of this tumultuous regular season. After home games Friday against Carolina and Sunday against Chicago (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), there's a six-game road trip that includes two stops in Montreal and one each in Philadelphia, Detroit, New Jersey and Ottawa.
"I think it is a great test," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
said. "We'll see not only what we're made of but we'll see how much we have to improve if we want to go anywhere. I think it is a great test with these games and I am glad they're coming."