Martin Erat won’t be in the Washington Capitals’ lineup for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Friday against the New York Rangers after suffering an apparent left wrist or forearm injury in Game 4.
Erat was injured in the first period Wednesday when he fell on his wrist while getting tangled up with teammate Alex Ovechkin. Coach Adam Oates said Thursday afternoon the team was still waiting on the results of an MRI, but it will have to make do without the services of the 31-year-old left wing.
“It’s going to be a tough break for us, but we’ve won games before with the guys that we have here,” right wing Joel Ward said. “So we’re going to have to keep moving forward.”
Erat, acquired at the trade deadline from the Nashville Predators for prospect Filip Forsberg, had found a niche on the second line alongside center Mike Ribeiro and right wing Troy Brouwer.
“We were just getting comfortable together,” Ribeiro said. “But I think before he got here we had a good momentum with the guys we have here and the lines we had. There’s always someone to step up to those places.”
That someone is Eric Fehr, who took Erat’s place on the second line in Washington’s Game 4 loss and will start there in Game 5 as the Caps try to recapture a lead in the best-of-seven series.
“Every opportunity he got, he succeeded in and got more and more minutes and more and more responsibility,” Oates said. “And because of the injury we have to put him in a position with Ribs and Troy. Obviously we feel totally comfortable that he can play there. And he can.”
Ward gets bumped up to the third line alongside left wing Jason Chimera and center Mathieu Perreault in Erat’s absence. The changes give the second and third lines different looks, but players are confident about life after Erat because the Caps went much of the season without him.
“Obviously to have him, it’s a little bit more weapon offensively, but there’s other guys who can do the job and we know that and they know that,” Ribeiro said. “It’s just to give the chance to other players to get in the lineup, get Wardo moving up with Chimmer. I don’t think it’s going to change much.”
Wilson, Crabb recalled
Less than 12 hours after the Hershey Bears were eliminated from the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs, right wings Tom Wilson and Joey Crabb were on the road to Washington to join the Caps. It remains to be seen which player will slide in for Erat in Game 5.
There’s a good chance Wilson will make his NHL debut, judging from rushes at Thursday’s practice, but Oates would not reveal his lineup, saying he was one option along with Crabb, Aaron Volpatti and Wojtek Wolski.
“No definitive plan yet,” Oates said. “Just trying to think of all the possible combinations.”
The 19-year-old Wilson impressed the front office with nine goals and eight assists in 12 Ontario Hockey League playoff games for the Plymouth Whalers, and he had a goal in three Calder Cup playoff games for the Bears. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder figures to fit in well alongside Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle.
“I think like any fourth line would want to bring energy and lots of physical play and stuff,” Wilson said. “I’ve been watching their games and they’re two great skaters with lots of energy, so if I do get the chance, then that would be great to jump in with those guys.”
Laich reports progress
Brooks Laich expressed optimism after his second day on the ice with teammates, even though the injured forward still does not have a definitive timeline to return after groin surgery last month.
“Felt really good, certainly better than yesterday: more power, more explosion, more range of motion, functionality, all of that,” Laich said. “Pretty excited right now.”
Laich skated a few times on his own and then Wednesday and Thursday with the Caps. He had not been on the ice for almost a month since undergoing what he clarified was a minor groin procedure, not sports hernia surgery.