The Washington Times - January 22, 2012, 12:18PM

PITTSBURGH | Michal Neuvirth led the Washington Capitals onto the ice Sunday afternoon at Consol Energy Center for warm-ups, erasing the question of who would start in net against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But then an even bigger question arose, when Marcus Johansson was not on the ice. Instead, Mathieu Perreault was taking line rushes as the No. 1 center. Johansson is out Sunday because of an illness, a Caps spokesman said.


In his absence, the Caps’ top line is Alex Ovechkin with Perreault and Mike Knuble, who was skating on the fourth line as recently as Friday.

John Erskine and Jeff Schultz both took warm-ups, though Erskine is the one stepping into the lineup against the Penguins. He’s replacing Tomas Kundratek.

Erskine was instrumental in shutting down Malkin in the Caps’ meeting with Pittsburgh in December.

“He’s a pretty strong player, so he’s tough to hit off the puck,” Erskine said. “But I think you’ve just got to play a lot of stick on puck, almost make him come to you. He has good hands, he’s shifty, so you can’t be lunging at him. You’ve just got to contain him and you’ve got to put pressure on him all the time.”