Say this about Adam Oates: With 48 games in 99 days, the first-year coach is going to be quick on the trigger.
One week after starting the season with Marcus Johansson on his top line, Oates pulled the 22-year-old forward out of the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, replacing him with Mathieu Perreault.
“I think he’s been a little big unlucky lately,” Oates said of Johansson, who had no points and was a minus-5 through four games. “This gives him a chance to take a step back, watch a game and re-evaluate.”
Perreault, who last week complained about his ice time, returns to the lineup as a fourth-line center between Matt Hendricks and Eric Fehr.
Oates said he wants his forwards unhappy if they’re not playing. He also wants them looking in the mirror.
“You get every reaction in the world,” Oates aid. “Some guys get mad, which is understandable, that’s what you want. Hopefully, they take a look at themselves and evaluate themselves.”
For Johansson, that means looking at what he did wrong in his first four games, when he got caught on the ice for multiple odd-man rushes.
“You’re supposed to play the way the system is and what the coach wants,” Oates said. “And he’s been trying. He’s been unlucky. He’s been caught out there and I want to give him a breather because sometimes when it’s not going your way and you’re a young kid it can snowball.”
Expected to join Johansson on the Capitals’ list of healthy scratches against the Sabres [2-2-0] are defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who backed up a strong effort against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night with a better performance in New Jersey Friday night, gets his third straight start between the pipes.
Neuvirth is 0-1-1 and has allowed seven goals in his two starts. Braden Holtby is 0-2 and has allowed 10 goals.
“Unless one gets really, really hot I would imagine you’ll see a pretty good split with them going back and forth,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said.
“I think they deserve that. They both have proven they can play and play really well. It’s hard to pick one over the other. They’re just like other players. They’re going to have good games and bad games and I imagine when one has a bad game the other guy will get in.”
With all of that in mind, it appears Oates is expected to go with a lineup that looks like this:
Alex Ovechkin – Jay Beagle – Joey Crabb
Wojtek Wolksi – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mike Ribeiro – Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks – Mathieu Perreault – Eric Fehr
Karl Alzner – Mike Green
John Erskine – John Carlson
Jeff Schultz – Tomas Kundratek
Michal Neuvirth – Braden Holtby