The Washington Times - October 5, 2011, 02:00PM

Given that Alex Ovechkin is in Moscow with family after the death of an uncle, the Capitals’ top line isn’t complete at practice this week. But for the purpose of drills, someone had to wear the red jersey along with Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble – and on Wednesday that person was Marcus Johansson.

A day earlier, coach Bruce Boudreau alluded to the combinations with Johansson down on the third line and Mathieu Perreault centering the second group being a way for him to send a “message.” Wednesday may have been another message sent, but it’s too early to speculate about Johansson being the odd man out come the season opener.

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“As to, is he the odd man out? I’m not saying he is at this point,” Boudreau said. “We’ll just see how Friday comes along and how Saturday [goes].”

As for that message, Johansson didn’t seem worried.

“I think he wants to change something to get something to happen,” Johansson said. “He wants to try something new. He’s the coach, so he decides.”

A lack of preseason production was a problem for Johansson, and Boudreau admitted that the second-year player was off to a “slow start.” The 20-year-old didn’t exactly have great words to say about his own exhibition performance.

“It’s been so and so,” he said. “It’s fun to be back but at the same time it’s the first three or four games in a couple months. But it’s the same for everyone and you’ve got to really step up your game now for the season to start.”

It would be a stunner if Johansson winds up a healthy scratch when the Caps host the Hurricanes on Saturday night, and Boudreau’s comments about Perreault with Alexander Semin and Troy Brouwer indicated that things could change the rest of the week.

“I don’t know yet. We’ll find out. Mathieu is a guy that brings energy and he has the knack of creating scoring chances,” Boudreau said. “We need somebody to create stuff: if it’s Mathieu, if it’s Marcus, we’ll see on Saturday night. We need that guy to be able to create the chances for Alex Semin.”