Skating around the rink for practice Sunday, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were laughing and joking around like old buddies reunited. They were wearing matching red jerseys both Sunday and Monday and will skate together on the first line Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I have fun everyday on ice – no matter who you’re skating with,” Backstrom said. “Obviously we’ve been good friends, tight friends, for a long time. Even if we weren’t on a line, we should always laugh out there.”
Backstrom and Ovechkin are expected to play with Troy Brouwer, who is making his Capitals preseason debut. And while coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned Sunday that Marcus Johansson could be on the top line, it’s not a concern to put Backstrom and Ovechkin back together given their familiarity.
“They know each other. When I played and not played with a guy for a while and you put him back with you, it’s like riding a bike – you know where they are,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think it takes any time at all for those guys to get back together.
Of course, Boudreau likes to juggle lines, and there’s no promise of Backstrom and Ovechkin staying together.
“Not that this is something that’s going to stay forever, either,” he said.
Alexander Semin is set to play on the left wing with Johansson and Mike Knuble, something Boudreau is experimenting with because Semin likes it.
And there are advantages to a player skating on his “off” side.
“The advantage is, when you cut to the middle, your stick is always on the forehand. You’re in the middle of the ice,” Boudreau said. “But not everybody can do it. It easily takes a very skilled player to be able to play the off side and be able to take a pass on your backhand. I know he can do it.”
With John Erskine’s status in question, the Caps are keeping a few extra defensemen around: Dmitry Orlov, Sean Collins and Patrick McNeill.
“If John’s not ready to go at the start, somebody’s got to stick around,” Boudreau said. “We’ll see who it is.”
Orlov, who will play Monday night, could see some power play time against Columbus.
“In rookie camp, he was the guy that handled the puck, and he has a really good shot, so we wanted to see how he would fare with the big boys,” Boudreau said.