The Washington Times - October 5, 2011, 01:00PM

The lesson is: Never believe an experimenting coach during training camp. Bruce Boudreau on a number of occasions downplayed practice line combinations that put Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom back together.

Then came this week, and the coach’s statement that the Capitals’ stars will likely start the regular season reunited on the top line.

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“I always think that Nicky and Alex, in the end, are meant for each other, so to speak,” Boudreau said. “They played together for so long, so I think that’s a fit.”

Ovechkin is in Moscow after the death of an uncle, but Boudreau and a team spokesman both said they expected him to be back for Saturday night’s game against the Hurricanes.

And even after all that talk about Troy Brouwer being the Caps’ top-line right wing, Mike Knuble will likely start the season there.

“Mike has been on that line for two years, and I think he’s the best early fit,” Boudreau said.

Marcus Johansson took Ovechkin’s place on the top line at practice Wednesday, while Mathieu Perreault skated on the second line with Brouwer (LW) and Alexander Semin (RW). Ordinarily that would seem to mean the possibility of Johansson being a healthy scratch.

But Boudreau – while praising the first, third and fourth lines, was noncommittal about the second line. The lesson is: Wait until later in the week to make any predictions about who the Caps’ second-line center and 13th forward will be.