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Fehr was 2011 Winter Classic hero and Capitals are hoping for an encore

Final preparations are made at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, for the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game to be held on New Year's Day. The Washington Capitals are scheduled to play the Chicago Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
December 31, 2014 - 4:00 AM

ARLINGTON, Va. - Eric Fehr always wanted to win the Stanley Cup. That's what he dreamt of when playing hockey on the pond on his family's farm in Winkler, Man.

Fehr didn't wonder what it would be like to play outdoors in the NHL. That changed early in his professional career.

"When the games started coming out and you started watching them, you definitely thought, 'This is pretty cool, this is something I'd like to be a part of,'" Fehr said.

Fehr, who will play in his second Winter Classic on Thursday when he and the Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks, is part of outdoor hockey lore because of his role in the 2011 game in Pittsburgh. Fehr scored two goals including the winner in that game to help the Capitals beat the Penguins.

"He had the performance we all wanted to have," forward Brooks Laich said. "He had the game we all wanted to have."

Fehr scored on a wrap-around after Marc-Andre Fleury gave the puck away. Then he had the winner on a breakaway.

It was one of his career highlights.

"Regular-season highlight maybe," Fehr said. "At the end of the day it's still a regular-season game. Obviously it was a bit of a bigger stage but at the end of the day it was just two goals."

Those two goals of his 80 in the NHL with the Capitals and Winnipeg Jets are the ones most people remember about Fehr. In the rain at Heinz Field, the 2003 first-round pick, who has battled shoulder problems for years, had something of a coming-out party.

"It definitely put him on the map for some people that didn't necessarily know Fehrsie before," defenceman Karl Alzner said. "It's a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, I would put money on him to battle hard for it."

Fehr thanked the bad ice for evening the playing field that night.

"It was a different game," he said. "It wasn't a game like most."

Sun is in the forecast for Thursday's game at Nationals Park, so the 29-year-old forward isn't promising an encore performance.

"We're going to let everybody else get in there and get some goals and I'm going to try to fly under the radar," Fehr said.

Fehr has two goals in his past three games, so maybe he shouldn't count himself out. Twice a 50-goal scorer with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings and twice a 20-goal scorer for the AHL's Hershey Bears, he has the kind of natural talent teammates marvel at.

"He's a guy that can all of a sudden step up," Laich said. "It's almost like a home-run hitter can step up and just crack one. He's got that game-breaking sort of ability to score."

Defenceman Mike Green can still remember how Fehr scored his goals four years ago in Pittsburgh. To Green, it was just another example of what Fehr can do with the spotlight turned up.

"He's one of those players that's sort of in the weeds but when he needs to step up and play in big games, he does," Green said. "He's been great for us lately, and hopefully he'll have (another) showcase in the Winter Classic."

After that two-goal night, Alzner said Fehr has big shoes to fill — his own. But Fehr sounded like a guy trying to reduce expectations rather than inflate them going into Thursday.

"I didn't guarantee not scoring a goal," Fehr said with a chuckle. "But I guaranteed lots of other guys were going to score goals. We'll see what happens."


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News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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