Initial training camp will be a blur for new coach

For so long, new Capitals coach Adam Oates had nothing but time. He would watch hours of video of players he could not actually coach, itching for the NHL lockout to mercifully end.

That finally happened last week after 113 days. Now Oates has too little time -- just six official practices -- as he prepares his team for a truncated 48-game season. There is no full training camp, no preseason games to help install his vision. That will have to be done on the fly when camp begins Sunday at Kettler Iceplex in Arlington.

"It's gonna be different for the guys, and we'll try and make the transition as smooth as possible," Oates said. "But every single team in the league has new players. So everybody is in the same boat a little bit when it comes to that. A lot of teams have a few new faces. No lineup is the same, really."

Fehr returning?
The Capitals are expected to sign free agent forward Eric Fehr to a one-year contract worth a prorated $600,000, according to an NHL source. Fehr, a Winkler, Manitoba, native who was drafted by Washington in 2003 and has played in 230 games for the franchise, was traded to the Winnipeg Jets after the 2010-11 season. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound right wing scored a career-high 21 goals in 2009-10 for the Caps and had 10 goals and 10 assists in just 52 games in 2010-11. He is best remembered for scoring the game-winning goal in the Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 2, 2011.

The players themselves don't seem overly concerned. Oates hopes to play a more aggressive brand of hockey than the one former coach Dale Hunter employed last season. You could see elements of that in the play of the New Jersey Devils last spring during their run to the Stanley Cup finals. Oates spent the previous two years as an assistant coach with that team.

And so as players arrived in Washington this week for unofficial workouts, Oates began watching video with them for the first time at least to start that process.

"We're going to have a lot of detailing to go over in the first week. We're going to be in the classroom doing X'ing and O's," forward Matt Hendricks said. "We're gonna have a lot of stuff on the ice. But that's what coaches love to do. They love to teach the game, and I'm sure we're going to be up to speed in no time."

There are two other new voices on hand, too, with assistant coaches Tim Hunter and Calle Johansson. Oates will work with them to conjure a lineup, make sure his starters remain healthy and pick a starting goalie -- all before the season opener, which is expected to be Saturday night at Tampa Bay.

"It kind of feels like it's a coaching change midseason because of no time to prepare, no time to even talk to him before this past week," forward Troy Brouwer said.

The Caps' biggest challenge is adapting to Oates while also getting off to a good start. With only 48 games, a team can't really shake off a bad 10- or 15-game stretch. There is little time in that scenario to make up ground in the second half of the season. Washington began last season 7-0 before a 6-12-1 stretch that got coach Bruce Boudreau fired.

"It was always 'We'll get better next game. We'll get better next game.' We kind of just waited for it to happen, and it didn't happen until six games left in the season," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "If we do that, we're going to be in trouble. It's more go-go-go, don't save anything. If you have an issue, you've got to fix it right away. Don't just wait for the next game."