This was a moment Eric Fehr had been anticipating since July 8, to be precise.
With that in mind, Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel didn’t want him to wait any longer, throwing Fehr into the starting lineup with centre Alex Burmistrov and Jason Jaffray.
Fehr was held off the score sheet against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, but was part of the 6-4 victory, taking 12 shifts for 7:19 of ice time before a sold-out crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
“That was great, I didn’t have to sit on the bench and wait for my first shift, coach just put me out there and I was excited to get that opportunity — I tried to keep it real short,” said Fehr, a Winkler product who was acquired by the Jets on July 8 from the Washington Capitals for a fourth round draft pick and Danick Paquette.
“The legs weren’t quite where I wanted them, but it was great to get the first one out of the way. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous before the game, not only about the shoulder but being back home. It was a big win for our team and I’m just happy to move forward.”
Fehr missed the first 19 games of the season after enduring off-season shoulder surgery, but was finally given the green light to get into game action on Saturday.
Shaking off the rust was the priority going into this one and Fehr looked comfortable for the most part.
“(The shoulder) feels great, it hasn’t felt better,” said Fehr. “I tried not to get caught too much in the D-zone and keep plays simple. I had a couple turnovers in the first period that I can’t be making.
“After the first period, I got the jitters out a little bit and started playing a little bit better and making smarter decisions. I’m hoping to get better every day.”
Noel liked what he saw, but was sure to ease Fehr back into things after he missed the first 19 games of the campaign.
“I thought Eric was pretty good, he probably could have played more,” said Noel.
“His energy was good and I thought he did some good things. He’s smart and he’s going to be a good player for us down the road.”
Fehr had more than 30 friends and family members in the crowd for this game and was thrilled to experience what it was like to play an NHL game in his home province for the very first time.
“It was great,” said Fehr. “It’s great when the fans get on players (like Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger). It keeps them into the game and it keeps it loud in the building, which is what we want as players. We want to feel the electricity from the fans and they’ve done a great job with that.”
Next Wednesday will mark another special moment for Fehr as he’ll be suiting up against the Washington Capitals, the team that drafted him 18th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Fehr dismissed the notion that he has something to prove to the Capitals, but that doesn’t mean he’s not looking forward to being back inside the Verizon Center.
“That will be a big game, not just because they’re a great team but because I have a lot of history with them as well,” said Fehr, who replaced Tim Stapleton in the Jets’ lineup. “I’m excited for it. It was just a situation where they wanted to make a few changes and that’s what they did.
“I have no hard feelings towards them at all.”