From the looks of Tuesday’s morning skate in Nashville, Marcus Johansson could be back in the lineup when the Capitals visit the Predators at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m., CSN).
Sidelined since suffering an upper body injury on Jan. 27 in the Caps’ final game before the All-Star break, Johansson practiced on a third line between left winger Jason Chimera and right winger Tom Wilson on Tuesday, and even returned to his spot on the first power play unit.
Before his injury Johansson had played in 44 of the Caps’ first 46 games (two-game suspension) and had 13 goals and 19 assists, along with a plus-12 rating.
Johansson’s speed helped infuse offense into the third line after he replaced Jay Beagle following Beagle’s hand injury on Dec. 30. Johansson’s move to center coincided with Andre Burakovsky’s promotion to second-line left wing and with Burakovsky on a seven-game scoring streak he’s likely to remain on a line with Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Johansson could also help break the Caps’ power play out of an 0-for-17 funk dating back to Jan. 19 when the Caps went 2-for-2 on the man-advantage against the Blue Jackets.
The Caps have gone five games without a power-play goal and that hasn’t happened since Games2 through 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last year against the Rangers. Despite the power-play drought the Caps still lead the NHL with a 24.2 percent success rate, one-tenth of a point better than the Bruins.
"I think we believe that as long as we're getting zone time and getting shots, that the results are going to come," said Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen, who is working on the second unit. "Some of those areas have been lacking lately and that's what we're focusing on. Our breakouts, our zone entries, our recoveries, our net presence, our execution."
If Johansson returns to the top power play unit, look for Evgeny Kuznetsov to return to the second unit. His return also would mean Stan Galiev would remain out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, leaving a fourth line of Mike Richards, Brooks Laich and Michael Latta.
RELATED: Holtby discusses when nature calls