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Marcus Johansson looks to find a spot in Caps' lineup


(Joel Richardson/The Washington Post)


Through the first two preseason games, rookie center Marcus Johansson has played well in myriad circumstances with numerous linemates. His adjustment to the smaller ice surface hasn't appeared to hamper his play, with his speed making him even more of an asset on an NHL rink.

When the Capitals return to Verizon Center tonight against the Boston Bruins, the competition for roster spots among the centers will continue at full steam in front of the home crowd. Based on the morning skate, Johansson will play on the second line between Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin against the Bruins. He played on lines with Laich and Eric Fehr in Nashville and with Matt Hendricks and Andrew Gordon in Columbus.

"It's fun just to play with different players and try something new," Johansson said. "I haven't played a lot with any of them but that will come. It's the beginning of the season; you have to try and see who can play with each other. We're just going to try some different stuff and in the end. Hopefully there will be something [Coach Bruce Boudreau] likes."

With so many possibilities available, especially among the centers, line combinations have been in a constant state of flux through the first portion of training camp and the preseason. But after a game and a few practices skating alongside the 2009 first-round draft pick, Laich likes what he's seen from the young Swede.

"Usually young guys that come here... in your first couple exhibition games you're a little jittery. For him to play his first couple NHL exhibition games [and] to be calm and patient with the puck, I think that's going to be great for him," Laich said. "I think he's going to be a big factor for our team this year whether he starts here or not. I think he's got a great chance and other than that he's a fun kid. He's a fun kid around the rink; kind of reminds me a little of [Nicklas] Backstrom that way."

While Johansson's speed and skating ability is a definite asset in creating offensive opportunities, it has been equally noticeable in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill.

"I think everybody that comes out of Sweden is normally very defensive minded," Boudreau said. "You saw that in rookie camp with Marcus; he didn't want to go in the zone. He was the third man high all the time because that's what they asked of him out there. We want him to be a little more aggressive on the puck, and maybe that's one of the reasons Nick had a slow start in his first year until he got really acclimated to the North American way of playing."

By Katie Carrera  | September 28, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus Johansson  
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Next: Semyon Varlamov out tonight vs. Bruins

Comments


Based on everything I've read so far, my bet is that he doesn't make the opening roster due to the roster crunch and the waiver requirements of certain other players. However, I think they tell him flat out that he'll see time in the NHL this year as a callup, thus convincing him to go to Hershey rather than back to Sweden.

Posted by: chombie13 | September 28, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

i like flash (i do) - but i don't see how he can fit in with the long term plans of the team (too many forwards to choose from). i hope flash's 'hurting' is his feelings and that gmgm found a trade partner. at this point i'd rather see johansson learn on the fly and hopefully after 82 games he will be serviceable in the playoffs as a 2C.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | September 28, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

it's funny how similar the situation with Johansson and Perreault is to Varlamov and Neuvirth. Varlamov was the higher pick and always seemed to have the edge because of that. Not to say he didn't out play Neuvirth, but there were definitely times where it wasn't so cut and dry. Neuvirth always played pretty damn well but just always ended up the odd man out. My guess is Johansson and A Gordon make the team (Gordon because of the waiver situation) but we see Perreault the first chance management gets dude to his chemistry with Chimera and Fehr.

Posted by: dcfury | September 28, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Not sure I understand why GMGM is having issues trading Fleishman. Feel free to tell me this is wishful thinking...but I wouldn't have any problem sending Flash and next years second rounder out the door for Souray.

Souray helps our D immediatly - meaning Erskine and Sloan don't play unless someone gets hurt.

We also open up a forward slot allowing Johansson to take over 2C and Perreault to slide in between Fehr and Chimera where he's got obvious chemistry.

Sounds like a no brainer to me...only question is whether that's enough to get Souray.

Posted by: patrone | September 28, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I am fine with keeping Flash for a year and letting MJ get some time in the AHL for a year. I think GMGM and BB think the same way which is why Flash only got a one year deal. They knew that by next year Flash would no longer be needed as a center and if they can resign Semin and Laich won't have a spot on the wings either. If they don't resign one of those two he can be resigned to play win but I think this is the last year he is a center for us at least.

Posted by: icehammer97 | September 28, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

@patrone

they'd have to take one of our D Erskine or Sloan as well. I dont think they'd want to but they arent dealing from a position of strength. Everyone knows Souray wont suit up for Edmonton, they will take whatever deal is proposed to them as long as the contracts coming back don't last more than a year or two.

Posted by: ThePat | September 28, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

@patrone Souray's contract also is for the year after this one and the Caps have Alzner, Laich, Knuble, Varly, and Semin to think about resigning. His cap space will make it so we lose at least one and probably two or three of those guys next season. Also is not much more of an improvement over guys like Andreas Lilja or Marc-Andre Bergeron both of which are unsigned and could be acquired for nothing and then we could trade a roster player for a pick or pass either Sloan or Erskine through waivers and decide what to do with them.

Posted by: icehammer97 | September 28, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

souray's salary (this year and next) is $4.5M - but his cap hit is $5.4. i'm not sure this would be such a great deal for the next two years without moving more than flash.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | September 28, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

i like flash (i do)
---kirk

so YOU'RE the one...

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 28, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

"I think everybody that comes out of Sweden is normally very defensive minded," Boudreau said.

translation: if you want to be a defensive center, go find another team!

"You saw that in rookie camp with Marcus; he didn't want to go in the zone. He was the third man high all the time because that's what they asked of him out there. We want him to be a little more aggressive on the puck"

translation: we have one defensive minded player on this team. And in my book that's one too many! Circle the firewagons! yeeehaaaaa!

i keed

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 28, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

True - that's a higher cap hit than I'm comfortable with...I didn't look at the salary info before suggesting that one.

That said, I still don't know why GMGM can't turn Fleishman in to a mid-level d-man with a reasonable contract.

Bottom line - Fleish needs to go. His upside is limited (I think he peaked last year) and we've got competitors waiting in the wings. To be honest, my biggest complaint against Fleishman isn't his game - it's his compete level. It wasn't there in the playoffs and I don't see it getting any better.

Posted by: patrone | September 28, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

When I said competitors...I meant Perreault. There wasn't a shift he played in the NHL last year where I questioned his compete level. To coin a phrase from Matt Hendricks (great pickup by the way) he alters the game in some way every night.

Posted by: patrone | September 28, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

To be honest, my biggest complaint against Fleishman isn't his game - it's his compete level. It wasn't there in the playoffs and I don't see it getting any better.

Posted by: patrone

i looked inside his chest cavity and he has no heart. Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 28, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

i like flash (i do)
---kirk

so YOU'RE the one...

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 28, 2010 5:04 PM

well, me and BB anyway and maybe some of flash's family

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | September 28, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

new post.
"Semyon Varlamov out tonight vs. Bruins"

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | September 28, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

speaking of, which current caps do you think have had acceptable compete levels the past 1-2 yrs? I know some of you think EVERY Cap does. Remember, this is just about visible effort, not ability or anything else. And of course its all relative to one's perspective. But here's my list-

Brads
Steck (except for Habs playoff series but he was also playing out of position)
Ovy
Backs
Carlson
Knuble
Laich
Erskine
Green (yes starting 2nd half of last yr)
Fehr (started late last season into the playoffs)

To me, compete level refers more than to just hustle. If I ONLY used hustle as a parameter, then I'd include Chimmyhoohaa and BGordo. But they have extremely weak board games so I have eliminated them from consideration.

I have clear compete level issues with Semin, Flash, Schultz and to an extent Poti and Alzner. BGordo kinda improved on that late last season. And Chimmylimmydingdong is a poser. Sloan is hit or miss, I need to see more of him.

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 28, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton01 >

That's why BB does those skating drills: if you've got all FIVE of your players down past the other team's goal line on the forecheck, they better be able skate fast to catch up when the other team breaks out.

@kirk - I'm with you on Flash. I do think he plays with effort and heart. I think technically he has deficiencies in his approach to checking and the half boards and he's not the strongest guy on his skates but he does take the bumps and he does try. But with this backlog, he will get in the way.

Having said that, I'm getting this sneaky feeling that the guy who might be the most likely trade bait is Eric Fehr. If I'm another GM - and I assume the top 4 plus the top prospects are not going anywhere - Fehr's a much more attractive proposition with more upside than Flash.

I'm thinking Maca might stay up for the penalty kill - but maybe he goes down for Eakin's 9 games first, then comes up. But I'd look for Fehr to be traded - if a trade is in the works - before Flash.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | September 28, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton01 >

That's why BB does those skating drills: if you've got all FIVE of your players down past the other team's goal line on the forecheck, they better be able skate fast to catch up when the other team breaks out.
-----------

its always scary when Schultz is lurking 6 feet away from the opposing net like he did on a Beagle scoring chance in that Nashville game.


don't think Fehr is going anywhere tho

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 28, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Having followed events for the last couple of weeks, here is the bottom line on the center position; MJ and Eakin are the future. Flash and MP are good, maybe better now, but not the future at the center position. We'll see shuffling and mix-ups for the next year (not more than that) until all this gets sorted out. With the talent level of MJ and Eakin, don't look for a trade for a center. Look for Flash, MP and other organizational depth to be dealt for heft at D. This is a position of strength for management. They must be beaming considering the options they have.

Posted by: washingtonpost31 | September 28, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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