After missing two games with a right shoulder injury, Alex Ovechkin will play tonight against the Islanders at Verizon Center.
“I feel fresh, I feel before I get hurt really good,” Ovechkin said. “Of course you don’t want to miss games, but it happens. I’m happy.”
When he does, he’ll play on a new-look top line that will feature Martin Erat at left wing and Nicklas Backstrom at center. Erat replaces Marcus Johansson, who’s played left wing on Ovechkin’s line since March of last year.
“We’ll see tonight [what is different with Erat as opposed to Johansson]. He’s a skilled guy, experienced guy. I’m sure he’s going to help our line create more opportunities to score goals,” Ovechkin said. “He’s a great player.”
Ovechkin’s return bumps Eric Fehr from the top line, where he’d been filling in for the league’s third-leading scorer. As the lines stand as of Tuesday morning, Fehr will drop from first-line right wing to a healthy scratch for Tuesday night’s game, as Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, and Troy Brouwer will be Adam Oates’s second line, Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski, and Joel Ward the third, and Aaron Volpatti, Michael Latta, and Tom Wilson the fourth.
After featuring on the third and fourth lines early this season, Fehr had seemingly found his stride while spending the past two games on that top line, tallying three assists. The move to top-line right wing was never a permanent one, but the drop from the top of the lineup to out of it is an uncommon one.
“We have a lo-jam at certain positions. Ovi coming back puts a strain on who comes out, and you have to make some tough choices,” Oates said, citing the performance of the fourth line — where Fehr might have found a landing spot — as another factor in his decision to leave the versatile veteran out of the lineup Tuesday.
“I think they’ve done a really good job the last couple games, obviously being physical is a big part of it. [Latta] set up [Carlson] on his goal [against the Panthers Saturday night], he’s been a big part of it, and I don’t really want to break them up.”
Oates said Braden Holtby will be in goal tonight against the Islanders. Holtby did not play Saturday after being roughed up by Ray Emery in Washington’s 7-0 win over Philadelphia Friday night.
Projected Lineup vs. Islanders