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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Marcus Johansson to center top line with Nicklas Backstrom out

By Katie Carrera

With Nicklas Backstrom out for at least tonight's game against the Oilers, it presents an opportunity for Marcus Johansson to step into the top-line center role. Granted as everyone knows, Coach Bruce Boudreau can tinker with the lines at any point mid-game but for the start tonight it will likely be Johansson between Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.

Johansson has played alongside Ovechkin a few times this season, with mixed results. Sometimes the 20-year-old rookie shows signs of nervousness skating on the same line as Ovechkin, but Johansson has excelled in recent games, prompting Boudreau to give him another opportunity. Boudreau added that he didn't want to break up Jason Arnott and Alexander Semin as two thirds of the second line either.

There is no simple solution to assimilating to playing with Ovechkin, Johansson said but that he's slowly finding ways to be more comfortable when he's needed on the top-line spot, particularly when both he and the Capitals' star left wing seem to play the best with the puck on their sticks.

"I don't know, it's hard to say," Johansson said about finding a rhythm playing with Ovechkin. "You know he's a great player. When he's playing his game he needs to have the puck and I do, too, I think. I think with a player like that you have to play together a couple of times.

"It's always fun to play as much as possible and to get as much responsibility as possible," Johansson said. "It's always fun to play with Alex and Mike and hopefully I'll have a good game and it will be a good night."

It's also a little bit of a different experience for Ovechkin, who has had several linemates over the course of his career, but since Backstrom entered the NHL in the 2007-08 season Ovechkin has never been in the lineup without him.

"It's pretty hard, but it is what it is," Ovechkin said. "It's kind of one of those situations for different guys like Marcus, to step up show his leadership and how good he is right now. He's a real good player. He's already a leader on the team and he's going to be a great player."

By Katie Carrera  | March 9, 2011; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom  
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Next: Braden Holtby to start against Oilers

Comments

Win 2-1 in a snooze fest, and everyone will go home happy.

Posted by: SA-Town | March 9, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

3 pts each for ovi and johansson tonight - make it happen marcus

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 9, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Win 2-1 in a snooze fest

Posted by: SA-Town | March 9, 2011 12:49 PM

if true - i'm way off then

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 9, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse


Here are tonight's Rooting Instructions (Wednesday March 9):

EDM (50 points) @ WAS (84 points): A win tonight moves the Caps into 2nd seed past BOS (who lost in MTL last night). EDM beat-up by the Flyers 4-1 rout last night. No Mercy, boys! Go Caps!!!.
ATL (65) @ CAR (71): A win by ATL tonight makes things harder for CAR and helps TOR (who are currently only 4 points out of the 8th spot Go Thrashers.
STL (67) @ CBJ (70): The West is still in chaos, with only 5 points separating the 4th through 11th seeds. The outcome of this game will do little or nothing to relieve the confusion. Go Blues.
LAK (77) @ DET (86): I'm pretty sure Lefty & tom would like to see DET get their Wings clipped in the Southland. Go Kings.
CHI (80) @ TBL (82) : A loss by TBL helps the Caps, obviously. However, CHI faces an uphill battle after losing last night to a much weaker FLA team. Go Blackhawks.
CGY (79) @ DAL (79): Now this is a game that could prove pivotal in sorting out the Mess In The West. CGY is my 2nd favorite team (after the Caps), and--as previously mentioned--my religious beliefs prohibit me from rooting for any Dallas team. Go Flames.
NYR (74) @ ANA (75): ANA--being a somewhat chippy team--seems well equipped to dish out some (well-deserved) punishment to those fruity Rags. And also the "Flying V"... I look forward to seeing images of Torts staring up at the ceiling and muttering "O Dear God, why do you hate me so much?" Go Ducks.

If the current status quo holds through the end of the regular season, Caps face MTL.

Posted by: Rhino40 | March 9, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Who's in goal tonight?

Posted by: NickG32 | March 9, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

As a Caps fan I'm actually not nervous about playing the Habs this year (if it happens.) Caps are better suited to play them this year than they were last.

Posted by: joshu1 | March 9, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Anyone getting called up to take Backstrom's spot? Perreault?

Posted by: cao091402 | March 9, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Who's in goal tonight?

Posted by: NickG32

Holtby. Metal in the eye? Hmmm?

Posted by: ablake70 | March 9, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

joshu1:
plus they seem to play better when they have something to prove or they are the 'underdog' - it appears to be one of the only things that motivates them to play 50/60 minute games.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 9, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Anyone getting called up to take Backstrom's spot? Perreault?

Posted by: cao091402 | March 9, 2011 1:01 PM

Fehr is supposed to be back to take his spot, not position. Probably move Hendricks to Center.

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | March 9, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

cao091402:
with only 4 moves to make and playing the oilers - i wouldn't anticipate them making one right now

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | March 9, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I think Fehr gets Backstrom's roster spot, and Laich shifts over to center to free a spot for a winger.

Posted by: crashinghero | March 9, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Holtby is in net tonight. Laich probably moves to Center on line 3 and Fehr is back in, so no Perreault call up.

Posted by: coooooooooley | March 9, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Nick is out - let's go Marcus! Braden have a great game!! We have all the confidence with you in net. GO CAPS!

Posted by: allforSemin | March 9, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

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