Update: We got our answer at about 6:35 p.m. as Jay Beagle will be the healthy scratch.
Last week Bruce Boudreau joked that he was just screwing with reporters about his line combinations and lineup. Now it seems like even more of a mystery.
Usually, the players who are scratched from the Capitals’ lineup spend extra time on the ice after everyone else is off. But Monday morning only backup Michal Neuvirth and obvious scratches D.J. King and John Erskine did that.
That means 13 forwards for 12 spots – likely with one of Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault or Jay Beagle getting the uncomfortable seat in the press box. All three of them came off the ice around the same time.
Johansson again took line rushes with Troy Brouwer and Alexander Semin, while Perreault was working on the fourth line with Matt Hendricks, Jeff Halpern and Beagle.
Johansson, who was the healthy scratch in Saturday’s season opener, would not say whether he was playing. But Boudreau certainly intimated that the 21-year-old was in.
“I’m probably going to put Marcus in and take somebody out,” the coach said.
The fourth line of Hendricks, Halpern and Beagle looked effective Saturday night, creating energy and doing the kind of grind-it-out things any coach would want from that group. Breaking up that group might be a signal that Boudreau wants to have Johansson and Perreault both in the lineup – somehow, some way.
“We do have a lot of options,” Boudreau said. “Beagle can play center or right wing. Halpern can play center or right wing. Along with [Brooks Laich], who can play anywhere. Perreault can play different positions. We’ve got a few options.”
That can make life difficult on a coach. Lightning coach Guy Boucher, for one, is rotating players in and out of the lineup early on. Mattias Ritola is in against the Caps, as is defenseman Bruno Gervais, who replaces the offensive-minded Matt Gilroy.
But Boudreau sees a bright side in all the extra work he puts into the tough decisions on lineups.
“In the end, quite frankly, what it does is it makes you feel better because you always come up with – no matter how dire straits you’re in – you come up with a lineup you think is going to work,” he said.
Johansson didn’t hide his emotions about not playing Saturday when approached at his locker Sunday and Monday. And while he didn’t want to keep answering the question about why he was a healthy scratch, Johansson admitted he was surprised after being the first-line center for much of camp.
“Yeah, a little bit, I guess. I wanted to play and I always want to play,” he said. “It’s not fun and it’s not what I expected. But sometimes that’s a process of learning.”