- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 27, 2013

Marcus Johansson knew he had to be better after coach Adam Oates benched him in the third period of a loss to Winnipeg last week. But the Washington Capitals forward didn’t do enough in the interim to avoid being a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Johansson had a team-worst minus-5 rating and zero points through four games.

“I just think he’s been a little bit unlucky lately and [wanted to] give him a chance to take a step back and watch a game and re-evaluate,” Oates said. “He’s been trying. It’s not that. … But I just want to give him a breather, because sometimes when it’s not going your way and you’re a young kid, it can snowball.”

Johansson began the season on the first line alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. When Oates saw the 22-year-old not skating well enough for his liking, he demoted him to the fourth line.

At the time, Johansson was critical of himself, saying: “I need to get better.”

Oates wants Johansson to take a look at his game, in addition to having a different perspective watching a contest.

“It’s the same for every single guy and it always has been: You’ve got to evaluate yourself, listen to what the coach says, take what you want out of it,” Oates said. “You’re supposed to play the way that that system is and what that coach wants.”

Oates hasn’t been afraid to mix and match his lineup when players aren’t performing. Sitting players can be motivational, or it can be a psychological setback.

“I think you get every reaction in the world,” Oates said. “Some guys get mad, which obviously is understandable. That’s what you want. And hopefully, they take a look at themselves sometimes, evaluate themselves.”

Center Mathieu Perreault, who was a healthy scratch Friday night at the New Jersey Devils, returned to the lineup in place of Johansson.

Perreault complained about his ice time before Thursday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens and played a season-high 12:15.

“It wasn’t so much his play at home [against Montreal] the other night, he played pretty good,” said Oates, who called it a “numbers game.”

The numbers game on the blue line is that two defensemen must sit out. Sunday, they were Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti, while Jeff Schultz and John Erskine remained in the lineup.

Compressed schedule

Tuesday’s game at the Ottawa Senators will be the Caps’ fifth in eight days. With minimal days off because of the compressed 48-game schedule, it’s a balance between conditioning and fatigue.

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