Part of the reason why Coach Bruce Boudreau likes to have the practice group whittled down to the 23-man roster is that it allows the players to all keep active while working through drills. No one spends too much time waiting on the boards for their turn.
It also allows the lines to settle into the combinations that he believes are the best fit. On Wednesday, Boudreau offered some insight into his thoughts behind the line combinations. To be certain these are subject to change at any time.
One familiar unit, that wasn’t used during the preseason at all, seems to be the way Boudreau is leaning for the top line: the combination of Alex Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble. Granted, this line may depend on when Ovechkin returns from Moscow following the death of his uncle, and his frame of mind as well.
“I always think that Nicky and Alex in the end are meant for each other, so to speak.” Boudreau said. “So that’s a fit and who knows, Mike has been on that line for two years and I think he’s the best early fit.”
Boudreau praised the third line group of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward, saying that they made the most of their time together in the preseason finale and he thought they fit well together.
He also stressed that he liked the fourth-line unit of Matt Hendricks, Jeff Halpern and Jay Beagle together and that group has spent most of the preseason and the last two days of practice working together.
Which brings us to the second line, where there has been a lot of movement. On Tuesday, it was Troy Brouwer on the left with Mathieu Perreault and Alexander Semin, but Boudreau wouldn’t say much as to how long that group may be together. Marcus Johansson, who was likely the intended recipient of a message by Boudreau on Tuesday, could fit in the second-line center role as well.
Boudreau wouldn’t go so far as to say Johansson would be the odd man out when the season started, though.
“Mathieu is a guy who brings energy and has the knack of creating scoring chances,” Boudreau said. “Nobody created too many scoring chances for Alex Semin during the preseason. We need somebody to create stuff. If it’s Mathieu, if it’s Marcus, we’ll see on Saturday night.”
Keep an eye out for a post about Johansson later on today.