The Washington Times - September 22, 2011, 11:18PM

When the Capitals face the Blackhawks at United Center on Friday night, expect Joel Ward to be the right wing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. That’s where he was during practice Thursday, part of what Bruce Boudreau called the continuation of some training camp experimentation.

Mike Knuble, Troy Brouwer and now Ward have all seen some time on the top line in camp.


(Boudreau said Sunday will be a better indication of where he’s leaning, so check out Monday’s Washington Times for a story on that first-line right wing position and what it means.)

I don’t know if [the competition is] wide open. I think I know who I have in my mind who I’d like to see have that position,” Boudreau said. “But it’s not wide open. It hasn’t been taken yet.”

Ward got his chance in practice Thursday and fielded a lot of questions about it.

It’s definitely something different,” he said with a laugh. “I just try to play my own game and not really be too concerned with exactly where I am in the lineup.”

It doesn’t – at least yet – seem like a grand pronouncement about Ward (who signed July 1 for four years and $12 million) or Knuble, who held that post last season. But Boudreau explained what he liked about Ward skating on the top line.

I like the fact that he’s a big-bodied guy that knows how to play,” the coach said. “He reminds me an awful lot of a little younger Mike Knuble. He maybe doesn’t have the touch that Mike has right around the net or hasn’t proven that he has that touch yet. Very similar players, I think. But if we weren’t going to play Mike [Friday night] and Joel is playing, it seems like a good spot to put him.”

For his part, Knuble – who skated on a line with Jacob Micflikier and Mathieu Perreault at times and Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich at others Thursday – wasn’t overreacting.

We knew that from the start there’d be a lot of moving around. It seems like he’s kind of lining up pairs of wings and centers and moving probably a third guy around,” Knuble said. “I don’t know. I think we’re all probably seeing how it’s going to be. It’ll be a constant shuffle.”