SUNRISE, Fla. – Of the five Capitals who represented their countries at the Olympics, the one with the least disappointing tournament was Marcus Johansson, who was named to the Swedish squad as an injury replacement just two days before players traveled to Sochi.
Johansson earned a silver medal with Sweden and averaged more ice time (10 minutes 40 seconds on average over five games) than expected as injuries piled up for Tre Kronor. He sat out from Sweden’s first game of the tournament as a healthy scratch but when Henrik Zetterberg left to tend to a herniated disk in his back, Johansson was needed to bolster center depth in his first Olympic appearance.
“It was a great experience,” said Johansson, who added that playing center on the big Olympic ice — especially after skating most of these past two seasons on left wing with the Capitals — was a challenge. “On the big ice it is quite different to play that type of game but I think it was fun and I think the whole team played pretty good and that’s all that matters. All but the last game, I don’t think we had our best effort, but Canada played great.”
He also expressed regret that his Capitals teammate and friend Nicklas Backstrom wasn’t able to take part in the final contest in Sochi after testing positive for a substance banned by the IOC that is found in his allergy medication.
“It’s awful. I really feel bad for him and if there’s anything you could do you’d do it,” Johansson said. “We’re all on his side and hopefully this will go away almost. It’s tough but we all support him, it could have been anyone.”
After Sweden’s 3-0 loss to Canada in the gold medal game Sunday, Johansson didn’t return to North America with the NHL players, as he had to resolve some visa problems in Stockholm.
The morning skate at BB&T Center in Florida marked the first time he had been on the ice since that contest and Johansson admitted he felt a little off after making the long trip from Stockholm to London and then Miami before arriving at the team hotel at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
“I don’t feel great right now,” Johansson said. “When you travel like that for 20 hours or whatever it was it takes a toll on your body. But you get a good nap in, a good meal I think it will help me out.”
Johansson said he expects to be ready to face the Panthers as Washington resumes its season Thursday night. Coach Adam Oates wants to see how the forward feels after warmups, though, and still considered Johansson a game-time decision. If Johansson plays he will start the game on the fourth line as Oates aims to ease him back in through the jet lag.
Asked if he brought his silver medal back with him as he rejoined the Capitals or left it home in Sweden, Johansson said he wants to keep this particular souvenir around for the time being.
“I got it here. I think it’s something I want to keep for a while,” Johansson said. “Maybe look at it on a bad day.”