After sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch, Marcus Johansson will be back on the fourth line tonight against Toronto. It’s an opportunity for the third-year center to show improvement after a rough start to the season and prove he deserves a regular spot in the lineup.
“I want to play. That’s why I’m here. I want to play and it’s not fun to sit out, but it’s his decision and I respect his decision,” Johansson said. “It’s his decision. He’s the coach; you’ve got to deal with it, learn and move on.”
Johansson started the season as the top-line left wing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but after two turnover-riddled and ineffective showings, he dropped down to fourth-line center for the next two contests, only to then be sent to watch from the press box.
Coach Adam Oates wanted to give Johansson time to take a step back, watch the system work unfold from afar and re-evaluate his game.
“I think sometimes as a young guy you need that, to sit upstairs and see,” Oates said. “He actually got to watch good games; our team played good hockey…..So hopefully he’s just going to come in and play hard and fit in.”
When Johansson is at his best, his speed and skating ability are on display as he beats opponents to pucks and creates space for himself and his linemates. Matt Hendricks, who will play on Johansson’s left wing, knows what he can do to help get the most out of his young teammates.
“I’m going to try to play that North-South hockey, chip pucks behind defensemen, try to get Marcus in as many foot races as I can,” Hendricks said. “I think that’s kind of my job to help Marcus benefit is to get him to skate and get the defensemen turning, because that’s when he can make them very vulnerable.”