SAN JOSE, Calif. – Wild center Eric Fehr broke into the league with the Washington Capitals, and he captured a Stanley Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But a short, 24-game stint in San Jose with the Sharks last season is also a significant stop on the veteran’s professional journey because it allowed him to re-establish himself as an NHLer — an opportunity the 33-year-old didn’t waste, because he’s now a mainstay with the Wild.
“I definitely think it helped,” Fehr said. “I was really happy they were willing to take a chance on me after playing in the minors for a little while.”
Despite strong credentials that included getting drafted 18th overall in 2003 by the Capitals and skating in more than 550 games, Fehr was bounced out of the NHL in 2017-18.
He was waived by the Maple Leafs after playing only four games and was eventually loaned by Toronto to the Ducks’ American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego.
Fehr spent the bulk of the season in the AHL and excelled, racking up 17 goals and 28 points in 34 games with the Gulls, before the Maple Leafs traded him to the Sharks in February.
“I was able to prove that I can still play and that I have a lot left,” he said.
With the Sharks, Fehr nabbed a depth role and delivered. He scored three goals and tallied an assist in 14 regular-season games before chipping in two more points — including a goal — in 10 playoffs appearances.
“Last season was a real adventure,” Fehr said. “There was a lot of stuff going on, a lot of moving parts. I’m just happy that it all worked out in the end and I was able to play some meaningful hockey at the end of the season.”
Now he’s become an integral cog of the Wild’s bottom-six after signing a one-year contract as a free agent, emerging as a penalty-killing specialist while also spearheading the secondary scoring supplied by the fourth line.
“I definitely feel confident in the ‘O’ zone,” said Fehr, who had two goals and six points through 13 games. “At the same time, you still have to know what your role is. You can’t be taking unnecessary chances. Given the opportunity, our line is going to be able to put the puck in the net.”
Defenseman Nate Prosser rejoined the Wild on the road after reporting to the AHL last week for a two-game conditioning stint with Iowa.
“I was able to get down there, get my timing down, get my feet going,” Prosser said. “That was the biggest thing. You can take all the reps you want in practice, but nothing compares to game situations.”
Prosser has been the seventh defenseman on the depth chart all season, logging only 3 minutes, 3 seconds in his lone appearance Oct. 16 against the Coyotes. Even though he’s used to being the odd-man out, it can still be challenging to be idle for so long.
“It gets hard at times, but it’s not any situation I haven’t been in the past,” Prosser said. “My whole career has kind of been this way other than last year where I played pretty much every game. I know this role, and I want to have fun in that spot [and] come to the rink with a smile on my face.
“At the end of the day, this is what I do. It’s not who I am. I want to be a good father, a good husband away from the rink. And when I come to the rink, I want to have that joy and that excitement and have that smile on my face.”
Center Eric Staal sat out Tuesday’s game because of illness, ending his ironman streak at 335 games.
It was the first game he missed with the Wild and first time he’s been absent from an NHL lineup since he was out five games because of an upper-body injury Oct. 14-24, 2014, with the Hurricanes.
Matt Hendricks drew into the lineup with Staal out, Hendricks’ first appearance since he suffered a lower-body injury Oct. 16.