Coach Bruce Boudreau had wondered how Troy Brouwer would fare on a line with Alex Ovechkin since the Washington Capitals traded for Brouwer at the NHL draft in June. On Monday night, Boudreau will have his first chance to view that combination.
Brouwer will make his debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Washington’s first home preseason game. He’ll also become the latest to audition for the right-wing role on the top line with Ovechkin.
During the opening week of the preseason, Mike Knuble, who played with Ovechkin each of the past two seasons, and Joel Ward have appeared in exhibition contests alongside the star left wing.
“It was something you [envision] when you’re doing that,” Boudreau said when asked if he penciled Brouwer and Ovechkin together. “Mike [Knuble] has done a great job — he might still be the guy that’s there — but, I mean, you get new guys. You want to get excited and see what they do in that position.”
Brouwer’s physical edge stands out from the other two candidates. During the 2010-11 season, both Brouwer and Ovechkin were among the top 10 hitters in the league with 262 and 241, respectively. Pairing them could make the group tougher to play against.
Brouwer, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2004 and played there full time for the past three seasons before being traded, has experience playing next to all-star caliber talent.
In Chicago, he occasionally skated with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. While he’s always admired Ovechkin’s play, Brouwer knows he can’t be caught starry-eyed when out on the ice at the same time.
“You can’t get sucked into his game, I guess you could say,” Brouwer said. “He’s really good at what he does but not everybody is. . . .I’ll just do what I do, which is go in the corners, finish my checks, try to get him the puck and hopefully he can do what he does after that.”
Brouwer underwent shoulder surgery in May but said it hasn’t been a problem in training camp. Ideally, he would like to play in three of the four remaining preseason games to get back up to game speed.
“I haven’t even been icing it after practice, it feels that good,” Brouwer said of his shoulder. “I’ve had no problems with it.”
While Brouwer is expected to skate on the top line against Columbus, who will serve as the center remains unclear. Nicklas Backstrom was reunited with Ovechkin during Sunday’s workout but Boudreau cautioned that Marcus Johansson, who centered the line each of the first six days of training camp but had been sick recently, may play his third preseason game alongside the captain on Monday.
“Well, Backstrom was up there more because Marcus wasn’t scheduled to practice. I didn’t know if he was going to be sick or not,” Boudreau said. “So you might see them switch tomorrow.” . . .
Brooks Laich left Sunday’s practice feeling “tight,” according to Boudreau, as the Capitals continue to play it safe with anyone who experiences discomfort during the preseason. Jason Chimera hasn’t practiced since leaving the ice on Friday morning. . . .
John Erskine, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, continues to wear a no-contact jersey and doesn’t expect to appear in a preseason game. . . .
Washington trimmed its roster once again, assigning six players to the AHL’s Hershey Bears: Braden Holtby, Patrick Wellar, Matthew Ford, Ryan Potulny, Christian Hanson and Danny Richmond; the latter three players listed must clear waivers.