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Marcus Johansson leaves practice early; Oates able to balance ice time in Edmonton

Washington Capitals' Marcus Johansson (90) of Sweden controls the puck during an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Washington Capitals’ Marcus Johansson (90) of Sweden controls the puck during an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Capitals held an upbeat, roughly hour-long practice at WinSport in Calgary Friday that concluded with one of the more entertaining shootout competitions in recent memory. Among the highlights, Olie Kolzig scoring a goal on Braden Holtby and Aaron Volpatti snowing Brooks Laich when his side had to do sprints for a failed attempt or goal against.

The lines and pairings were the same as the past two games so they’ll likely stay that way for Saturday’s matchup against the Flames.

Marcus Johansson, who recorded two points for a second straight game in the win over Edmonton, was on the ice for the start of practice but left the session early on. Everyone else was present and made it the whole way through the workout.

Johansson was “just a little sore from last night and a little stiff this morning. Tried to loosen it up and it was still bugging him a little bit so we said get off,” Coach Adam Oates said, adding that he doesn’t expect the forward to miss the game in Calgary.

For as much as Johansson is overshadowed by his especially gifted linemates, the 23-year-old has become steadily more engaged in each game over the past week and it’s adding depth to that top line. Rather than Ovechkin and Backstrom predominantly playing off each other, the group has been functioning more as a three-man unit with Johansson finding better ways to become involved in a play.

Oates believes Johansson is showing the dynamic skating ability that made him an important part of the line late last season and trying to engage in the play physically more often than he has in the past. Alex Ovechkin sees Johansson, who has 10 assists in the first 10 games, as showing more confidence in his game.

“I think he play like he not afraid to make mistake, biggest point right now for him,” Ovechkin said. “He growing up like a player as well, he get matured.”

>> In taking a look at the scoresheet from Thursday’s win in Edmonton, Ovechkin’s low 15:42 of ice time jumps out. It’s his lowest ice time of the season by far but was a product of Oates rolling four lines in an attempt to help conserve players’ energy throughout the lineup. Once Washington established a significant lead he was able to continue rotating through all four units.

Among the 12 forwards who suited up against the Oilers none had less than 10:01 (Volpatti) or more than 17:26 (Jason Chimera). The time was equally balanced among the defensemen. Mike Green held his usual leader spot with 22:40 but John Erskine, who played the least among the blueliners, still skated 18:13.

“First period yesterday in Alberta, first time for the guys the altitude kind of grabs you a little bit as the shifts go along and you get tired,” Oates said. “So I rolled four lines more and then score dictated that I kind of kept it going.“



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Katie Carrera · October 25, 2013

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