After playing the past two games among the top six forwards, it appears Marcus Johansson will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Capitals host the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.
Johansson, who recorded his first goal of the season on Feb. 5 against Toronto, has been inconsistent this season regardless of the line he’s skated on. He started the year on the top unit, was demoted to the fourth line, sat as a healthy scratch for two games and then was inserted back on the third line before rising to the top six again last week.
Coach Adam Oates made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with Johansson’s performance in Washington’s 5-2 loss to the Penguins on Thursday.
“We need more execution,” Oates said. “I think his confidence might be one of the problems about the play. We need more execution and didn’t get enough in Pittsburgh.”
Meanwhile, Mathieu Perreault will be making his return to the lineup after sitting for five games as a healthy scratch. The fleet-footed forward is eager to get back in the mix and make an impact in his first game since Jan. 29 against Ottawa.
“I want to do what I’ve always done when I was getting called up or been sitting out for a while. I would always come out and be flying and bring tons of energy,” Perreault said. “That’s what I want to do [against Florida]: I want to be flying and bring tons of energy. That’s what I want to do tomorrow; I want to be all over the ice, bringing tons of energy. I think that’s what they want from me, and that’s what I want to bring.”
After completing his three-game suspension for elbowing Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, John Erskine will be back in the mix on the blue line. Roman Hamrlik will be a healthy scratch, but it’s unclear who else will be sitting out.
Tom Poti, who was a late scratch against Pittsburgh because of an upper-body injury, said he was feeling better but that he would need to take warmups to determine whether he would be ready to face the Panthers.
Poti’s injury was the result of being cross-checked into the boards by Toronto’s Leo Komarov on Feb. 5.
“The guy kind of pushed me from behind, cross-checked me into the boards,” Poti said. “I went pretty much headfirst into the boards and didn’t feel too good.”
In other injury news, Oates said that Brooks Laich (groin) is close to being cleared for contact. Laich took part in the morning skate and sat in on special teams meetings Saturday and is ready to take another step forward in his recovery.
“It’s coming up soon, I believe,” Oates said. “Some of our drills have a little bit of body contact and really for him to let loose and bump guys. It’s not major hits or anything like that. It’s just a slow process.”
The Capitals held an optional morning skate ahead of their matchup with the Panthers. Those who didn’t skate were: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Mike Green and Joel Ward.
While they didn’t skate line rushes, but here’s an educated guess in what the combinations will look like. As always, check back after warmups for the confirmed lineup. Braden Holtby will get the start in goal.