For most of training camp, Marcus Johansson was the Capitals’ No. 1 center. Even as Nicklas Backstrom took turns on the top line, Bruce Boudreau talked it up as no big deal. It looked like Johansson would get a shot with Alex Ovechkin.
But then came a preseason by Johansson that did not draw rave reviews from Boudreau. And the 21-year-old center found himself in the press box for Saturday night’s season opener.
“It was not fun. You always want to play,” he said Sunday. “I wasn’t happy at all, but we won the game and it’s a new day. I’ve got to keep fighting and obviously I want to play. It’s not fun.”
Johansson was rather short when asked why Boudreau decided to make him a healthy scratch against Carolina.
“I think he told all of you what was going on, so I think you kind of know that already,” he said.
At Sunday’s practice, all seemed to be back to normal, as Johansson was back at second-line center between Troy Brouwer and Alexander Semin. It appears he’ll make his season debut Monday night against the Lightning.
Boudreau said he wants Johansson “just to play up to his capabilities – that’s all,” he said. “We’re not asking him to be superman or to invent the wheel or do any of those things.”
All along, Johansson has talked about wanting to play his “own game” – a hockey cliché, certainly, but also his steadfast commitment to doing what he did last year en route to a 13-goal, 14-assist rookie season.
He’s also certain that hard work will continue – to avoid the fate he had Saturday.
“I’m here to play hockey and I want to play every day and I don’t want to watch the team play,” Johansson said. “It’s good to be back.”