With two goals in the last two games, the Capitals are looking to reignite their offense and with that hope comes a new configuration for the top two lines.
For the morning skate at Air Canada Centre and presumably the start of Washington’s game against the Maple Leafs here Saturday night, Alex Ovechkin was on a line with Marcus Johansson and Alexander Semin while Nicklas Backstrom centered Cody Eakin and Troy Brouwer.
“I thought there might be a little chemistry,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Cody is a fast skater and Nick is a great puck distributor and Brou is really good at going in the corners and digging out pucks, so I thought let’s see what works. The other three guys [Ovechkin, Johansson, Semin] are all very fast and offensively gifted. Let’s see how that works as well.”
Eakin and Backstrom skated two shifts together at the end of the 4-1 loss to Winnipeg and Boudreau said he thought “they went pretty well together.” That grouping of Eakin, Backstrom and Brouwer is one that in addition to possibly creating some offense could be rather responsible in their own end as well.
“The only difference is I think Cody’s been playing center before, if I go down low maybe he can take after me and be a little more defensive,” said Backstrom, who was asked to give an assessment of the 20-year-old Eakin. “He’s a great player. I think he’s skilled, he can score, pass the puck. He’s a pretty all around player, getting a chance to play with him right now it feels great and hopefully we can do something good about that.”
Eakin said he thinks playing with the Capitals’ No. 1 center shouldn’t be too tough of an adjustment and that as Boudreau tries to switch up the forward combinations in search of offense he wants to jell as quickly as possible with his newest linemates.
Boudreau also said that he thought the rookie forward earned his chance to be among the top six forwards again.
“He has played well,” Boudreau said. “He’s been one of our better players and that’s unfortunate when a 20-year-old has been one of your better players the last couple games.”
The other combination puts Ovechkin and Semin together but with second-year center Johansson instead of Backstrom. Although Johansson has played with both Russian wingers separately at times, the young Swede said he’s never skated with them on the same line except for on rare shifts during games usually when a line change hasn’t been completed.
Ovechkin is comfortable playing with Semin and has experience working with Johansson as well. If the trio can get in sync quickly, Saturday night could be a prime opportunity to see the offense get back on track.
Johansson acknowledged that with the scoring potential that comes with Ovechkin and Semin, he will need to focus on trying to provide support for the defense.
“I think I’m always conscious of getting back, I don’t want to say it’s more with these guys but I think since they’re so good offensively and they have to play offensive hockey my mindset is going to be a little more defense,” Johansson said. “But I’m happy to do that. If those guys can go forward, score some goals I’ll be happy to take on more defensive responsibility.”