- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2015

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Monday that center Eric Fehr will miss at least the next two playoff games after taking a stiff hit into the boards in the 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

Fehr was skating from the end boards into the corner in an attempt to play a loose puck when he was hit by Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo at 3:11 of the first period. Okposo hit Fehr with the right side of his body, crunching Fehr’s right shoulder against the glass.

He did not attend the Capitals‘ practice at Nassau Coliseum on Monday afternoon. Trotz said that the injury was unrelated to whatever led to Fehr to miss the last three games of the regular season, though it is believed Fehr sustained a shoulder injury then as well.

Fehr had 19 goals, two shy of his career high, and 14 assists for the Capitals during the regular season but had been held without a point in the playoffs. The renaissance came as he had finally come to accept playing a new position — a transition that began last season — and settled in as a third-line center.

“He plays a pretty good for role for us,” Trotz said Monday. “He’s done a lot of stuff on the [penalty kill], five-on-five, been a little bit of a checking guy. He’s been one of those guys that’s got it done. Every team has guys like that, and we have a couple of those guys, but it’s a loss.”

Second-line left wing Marcus Johansson also missed much of the Capitals‘ practice on Monday, leaving after approximately 10 minutes because of what the team originally said was an equipment issue.

Johansson did not return, however, and Trotz said afterward that the winger had a lower-body injury that would be evaluated Tuesday during pre-game warm-ups. Johansson appeared to take a skate to his right calf at 14:20 of the first period on Sunday when he was checked by the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck, but he returned for his first shift of the second period and finished with 15:48 of ice time.

With Fehr out, it appears that rookie Michael Latta will return to the lineup after having served as a healthy scratch the last two games. Latta, primarily a fourth-line center this season, played in 51 games and was held without a goal but had six assists.

And should Johansson miss time, the door could open for rookie Andre Burakovsky, who has been out of the lineup for all three games of the series. Burakovsky took rushes with the second line in Johansson’s place during practice on Monday.

“You always look at it as opportunities for other guys,” said Capitals left wing Jason Chimera, who scored the winning goal in Game 2. “You look at playoff series, you’ve got people coming in to make a big difference. … Guys look at it like an opportunity. This is where you make careers. You come in, you have some good games in the playoffs and all of a sudden, you end up on every other team’s radar, so you know, I think you relish those kinds of moments, and hopefully, they do, too, because it’s a chance to show what you’re worth, for sure.”

Burakovsky has endured an up-and-down season for the Capitals, beginning the year as the team’s second-line center before returning to a more familiar spot on the wing. When his playing time dwindled, the 20-year-old was sent to Hershey to make sure he could get in a game, but constant injuries over the final six weeks of the season led to frequent trips back and forth to Washington.

Midway through the season, he had a 10-game run as the top-line right wing alongside left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, which he said Monday helped him adjust quickly to the speed of the game and his burgeoning responsibilities with the Capitals.

But Burakovsky’s aggressive style of offense, coupled with his lapses defensively, led to Trotz and the coaches attempting to rein him in. He finished the regular season with nine goals and 13 assists, topping it off by playing in the final two regular-season games with Fehr and Tom Wilson out because of injury.

“It’s a lot tougher right now,” Burakovsky said, referring to the style of play in the postseason. “People are grinding a lot harder, hitting people more. Game is fast, but I kind of like the fast game. I like speed. I don’t mind it at all. I been around like, almost all year. I kind of know how we should play. I’m not change my game for tomorrow. I’m just going to keep do what I’m good at and hopefully, help the team out a little bit.”

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