The Washington Capitals will feature a new-look lineup Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, including Marcus Johansson on then top line and a third defensive pairing with two recently recalled Hershey Bears.
Johansson earned the promotion to the first line alongside Mike Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin on Sunday in his return to the lineup. Coach Adam Oates praised the 22-year-old Swede as one of the best players on the ice.
“One of the best forwards,” Oates said Tuesday. “I saw what I saw on the tape, watching the playoffs last year. I really saw some energy and skating and being a bit of a hound on the puck and making good decisions. You know, maybe that hit in training camp did hurt him where he was trying to fight through it and didn’t have the pace I saw the other night. I really thought that was solid.”
Johansson had one goal, zero assists and a minus-7 rating in his first nine games. He would not reveal when his concussion symptoms began.
“It’s also a lesson for him that you’ve got to be honest with the trainer because you are getting judged,” Oates said. “You get judged by me, you get judged by [the media], everybody. So we’ve got to be smart about it. I appreciate him trying to fight through it, no question, but I’m more encouraged by the way he played the other night. That’s great, we need that for the second half.”
Down the lineup, Matt Hendricks will center the third line of Jason Chimera and Joel Ward.
On defense, insert Cam Schilling in place of Tom Poti, who’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Schilling is expected to start alongside Steve Oleksy.
Half of the Caps’ blue line Tuesday was in Hershey when the NHL season began.
Defenseman John Erskine, like Poti, was not on the ice for the morning skate. Erskine (upper body) was placed on injured reserve to make room on the roster for Schilling. The 32-year-old is eligible to return Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres; Oates said he hopes to have Erskine back by then.
Braden Holtby gets the nod in goal, his 13th start in the past 14 games. Joey Crabb and Aaron Volpatti are the healthy scratch forwards.
Brooks Laich (groin) skated with teammates for the first time since Feb. 16. Defenseman Mike Green (groin) was also on the ice. Both players are out indefinitely but expressed progress.
Here’s a look at the lineup:
Marcus Johansson - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Matt Hendricks - Joel Ward
Wojtek Wolski - Mathieu Perreault - Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner - Tomas Kundratek
Jeff Schultz - John Carlson
Cam Schilling - Steve Oleksy