Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/17/13
Marcus Johansson appears to have reclaimed his spot on the Washington Capitals top line. Coach Adam Oates put the fleet-footed forward there in the third period Friday night, a decision that paid immediate dividends when Alex Ovechkin scored on his first shift, and Johansson was working the Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom again during Saturday’s skate at Kettler. Johansson, 23, has clearly established chemistry and confidence playing with Washington’s top two players. “We played together quite a bit now, it’s the same with everyone, the more you play together the more you know where to find each other and I think it just kind of starts to come naturally,” said Johansson, who is second on the team with 15 assists through the first 20 games. “My confidence is a little bit better,” Johansson added. “But I think that comes with playing more, you get more comfortable in every situation and the more you play the better you feel.” Prior to the brief hiatus from their company that lasted less than six games, Johansson skated 40 consecutive games, regular season and playoffs, alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom dating back to last season when the trio was united on March 17. In that span, he’s recorded five goals and 26 assists. But Johansson has begun playing with more assertiveness where he previously deferred to more experienced linemates. Whether by forcing penalty killers to back off by working the puck along the half wall before sending a pass on to John Carlson in Phoenix, fighting through a check to set up Ovechkin’s overtime winner against Columbus, or winning a battle against Pavel Datsyuk down low to set up Ovechkin in Detroit, he is clearly forging his own identity. “You look in the last few games, all year this year honestly, when he’s making a pass lately it’s for a good chance,” Oates said. “The goal wasn’t as good as the next shift when he gives Ovi an empty netter on the PP. There [were] three [chances] in five minutes that are all legitimate, Grade-A scoring chances. He’s on a good groove right now. He’s got a lot of confidence. Not to be a cliché but I can see it in his eyes. He wants to go on the ice.” At this point there’s no reason to believe Oates won’t keep the unit together when the Capitals host the St. Louis Blues Sunday night at Verizon Center. Line combinations are all about finding a mix that clicks, and they’ve established that. Not to mention having two dangerously efficient playmakers alongside Ovechkin only seems to create more opportunities for the star right wing, who appreciates his younger linemate’s development.
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