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This article was published 24/8/2011 (2007 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There was no goalie manning the crease -- no Ryan Miller, Carey Price or Roberto Luongo standing ground -- but the puck still found the goal-scorer's sweet spot in the top shelf.
And with that Eric Fehr flashed a quick and telling smile.
Yes, there was the 25-year-old Winnipeg Jets' winger at MTS IcePlex Wednesday afternoon for just his second on-ice training session of the summer. Working with Jets' assistant athletic therapist Lee Stubbs, Fehr did some skating and passing drills before finishing up firing shots at a gaping cage.
And make no mistake -- this is a big deal for the Winkler product as he recuperates from shoulder surgery in May.
"I wasn't shooting it that hard yet, I was just floating it in there," said Fehr after signing autographs for a handful of fans. "I'm slowly working on getting that increased, but the shock effect from a shot when you have to recoil your muscles is what gets you after surgery. So I'm just trying to mostly get a feel for skating and stick-handling and as I get stronger I'll be able to start shooting a little bit harder.
"Mostly," he added with a grin, "I'm trying to make sure my hands still work."
That would be a good thing for a Jets' franchise who hope Fehr -- who fashioned back-to-back 50-goal campaigns with the Brandon Wheat Kings after being selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round in 2003 -- can push for work on one of the top two lines. He showed touch while toiling in D..C, with 21 goals in 2009-10 and 10 in 52 games last year before the freak shoulder injury landed him on the injured list.
It was on Jan. 14 -- less than two weeks after he was named the second star in the Winter Classic -- when Fehr and David Steckel collided in a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Initially it was thought Fehr would be out about a month, but he required surgery after the season and the long recovery road will cause him to miss the start of the upcoming campaign.
Officially, Fehr tore the labrum in his shoulder, although the way the 6-foot-4, 212-pound winger nonchalantly described the injury made it sound as if he was dealing with a tiny boo-boo.
"Torn labrum? It's just where the humerus pops out through the back of the shoulder and rips through all the cartilage and the tendons and everything," he said with a shrug. "You just have to sew that back up to keep the humerus in place."
Actually, Fehr has had his shoulders worked on before and he has no desire to have it happen again. That's why a big part of his recovery is not rushing the healing, but making sure he's completely pain free and stronger than ever before pulling on a Jets' jersey for the first time.
"The second (injury) was really frustrating," said Fehr of the collision with Steckel. "I took a lot of big hits throughout the two years that I was healthy. It was just a freak accident."
Immediately after the surgery Fehr was limited to lifting just one and two-pound weights before progressing to band and cable work. He hopes to soon be cranking up his ice-work to three or four times a week.
"This is something I want to be the last time I go through," he said. "I understand it's going to be tough for the first month of the season when we're starting up and with the excitement of the city... that's something I want to really be a part of. But long term I've got to be healthy."
Initially stung by the trade from the Caps in July -- he was acquired for minor-league forward Danick Paquette and a fourth-round draft pick -- Fehr has become invigorated at the prospect of playing in front of friends and family in his home province.
Right here and right now, however, he's focused on the daily grind of rehab.
"Just seeing the guys skating, I want to be out there," he said. "It's tough right now to hold the reins back a little bit, but at the end of the day I think it's important for me to be as strong as I can be before the season gets going.
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