In just his second game back in the lineup after recovering from a concussion, Marcus Johansson is slated to start Tuesday’s tilt against the Hurricanes on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro.
Coach Adam Oates promoted Johansson to the top left wing spot in the second period against the Rangers on Sunday after finally seeing the 22-year-old Swede play up to his capabilities.
“I saw what I saw on the tape, watching the playoffs last year,” Oates said. “I really saw some energy and skating and being a bit of a hound on the puck and making good decisions.”
After the 4-1 loss to the Rangers, Oates suggested that the collision between Johansson and Ovechkin in training camp may have caused the injury and negatively impacted the young forward’s play early in the season. Tuesday morning, Oates made the connection again.
“Maybe that hit in training camp did hurt him where he was trying to fight through it and didn’t have the pace I saw the other night,” said Oates, acknowledging that it’s a lesson he can learn as a new coach.
“It’s also a lesson for him that you’ve got to be honest with the trainer because you are getting judged,” Oates said. “You get judged by me, you get judged by [the media], everybody. So we’ve got to be smart about it. I appreciate him trying to fight through it, no question, but I’m more encouraged by the way he played the other night. That’s great; we need that for the second half.”
Johansson, who has declined to say when the symptoms began, was inconsistent in the first nine games he appeared in before sitting out 12 straight because of the concussion.
This isn’t Johansson’s first turn with the top line, as he has been one of the many candidates — along with Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Wojtek Wolski — Oates has rotated through the top left wing spot.
The only option he hasn’t tried in that position is Eric Fehr, who has found a home on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer. Oates explained that he likes the way Fehr works with the second line and that ideally he wants Johansson or Brooks Laich, whenever he returns from a groin injury, to fill the spot on the top line.
“He’s kind of moved up the ladder and I like where he’s playing, I like what he’s done,” Oates said. “I don’t want to put him with Alex necessarily. I like where he is and hopefully Brooks or Marcus will fill that role for us.”
Mathieu Perreault and Wolski will be back in the lineup against the Hurricanes after sitting out as healthy scratches against New York skating on the fourth line with Jay Beagle.
Perreault received a sweater for 12 consecutive games prior to the scratch, but Oates explained that he wants the 25-year-old pivot to focus on his overall game.
“It started with really Winnipeg. I didn’t like the penalty in Winnipeg,” Oates said, referring to Perreault’s retaliatory slash on Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian after the big blue liner roughed him up in the corner.
“I don’t want guys to get focused on production,” Oates said. “You’re a centerman. I need you in my own end, support my D and help us get the puck out. If you get points at the other end, that’s a bonus, but I still need you to play our end first. I don’t think you’re going to win in this league if we’re not playing solid in our own end. “
Braden Holtby gets the nod in net against Carolina for his 13th start out of the past 14 games. Check out the full projected lineup below.
Injury updates on Laich and Mike Green, who are both battling through nagging groin problems, to come soon.