The Washington Times - March 4, 2013, 03:10PM

Marcus Johansson “should” be cleared for contact Monday, coach Adam Oates said, a big step in the forward’s return from an upper-body injury.

“He’s going out there and he’s going to have a test today, and he should be cleared,” Oates said.

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Johansson has been skating with teammates but has not played since Feb. 7 at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oates and Johansson said the injury was something that had been a problem for a while. The 22-year-old suffered a back injury playing in Sweden during the NHL lockout.

Oates said Johansson looked “a lot better” Monday and had some jump in his stride. How long it will take before Johansson can return to game action depends on “conditioning,” his coach said.

“He needs some skates at full speed, some contact in drills,” Oates said. “But we’ll talk about it in terms of how ready he feels.”

Johansson was placed on injured reserve last week, retroactive to Feb. 7. The Caps can activate him at any time, but they’d need to clear space on the roster, which is at the maximum of 23, and that’s not counting forward Brooks Laich (nonroster, groin) and defenseman Jack Hillen (IR, upper body).

The move could be to put defenseman Mike Green (groin) IR, retroactive to Feb. 27. That would allow him to be able to come back as soon as Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

But there also might not be that big a rush to clear space because Johansson will need some time before he is game-ready.