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Two months after Caps traded him, Marcus Johansson is looking forward to fresh start with Devils

Two months after Caps traded him, Marcus Johansson is looking forward to fresh start with Devils

Want to know what it's like to get traded after seven years in the same organization?

Ask Marcus Johansson — who, two months after being dealt from the Capitals to the Devils, is still a player between homes...and uniforms.

Monday morning, Johansson skated with his former teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex while sporting a Washington helmet, a Washington practice jersey but New Jersey pants and New Jersey gloves.

So what brought him back to town? After spending most of the summer in Sweden, he needed to pack up his Arlington home and move his family up the Jersey Turnpike. And, of course, get in some cardio.

“I was texting with [Capitals defenseman John Carlson], and he told me to come in,” Johansson said. “It’s fun to be [back] here. You miss all the guys, from the trainers to the equipment staff and everyone. So it’s fun to be here and see everyone and kind of still feel you know them really well, and it doesn’t change just because you changed teams.”

It’s fun but “weird” at the same time. 

RELATED: Braden Holtby is looking at bright side of offseason changes

“Yeah, it feels different,” he said of getting dressed in the Capitals’ locker room as a member of another team. “It feels weird. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come in at first or not. This has been home for seven years, and now it’s not anymore. So it feels a little different, but it seems like there’s a lot of changes going on around here and it’s not just me that’s leaving. It’s going to take a little while for me to get used to it. This going to be somewhat of a different team than it’s been in the past here.”

Johansson enjoyed a career year in 2016-17, amassing 24 goals and 58 points in 82 games. But that didn’t keep the Capitals’ 2009 first-rounder from becoming a cap casualty. Because shortly after Evgeny Kuznetsov was signed to an eight-year, $62.4 million extension in early July, Johansson and his $4.6 million cap hit were on the move, dealt to New Jersey for a couple of draft picks.

For the Caps, it was a tough but necessary business decision. For Johansson, it upended his life.

“It’s part of the game," he said. "Sometimes you have to change things, and we had some good opportunities to win these past two years, and we didn’t take them and this is what comes afterward.

"You have to change something, and guys needed new contracts and stuff like that, so that’s the way it goes. There’s nothing more to say about it.”

The 26-year-old added: “It's a little bit different, but I guess it's a part of the game, and I got to learn that the hard way. But I'm excited for it. It's going to be a good challenge — fun to take the family somewhere new and start a new adventure.”

That new adventure starts a few weeks from now with a Devils’ team that finished last in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey has, however, made some upgrades this summer, including drafting Nico Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick and signing college hockey star Will Butcher on Sunday.

“It's a good group,” Johansson said. “A group of young guys, the team and organization that's heading in the right direction. It feels like coming there now you're part of that almost from the start. I'm feeling really good about this. It's going to be a fun year. It's going to be a tough challenge, but I think if we're up to it, we can certainly pull it off.”

Johansson also hopes the move allows him to take on a bigger role after being overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and other stars in Washington.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I hope so. That would be fun. That's a chance to take the next step as well as a player. I'm excited for new opportunities and new challenges. You get there, and you don't really know anything. I don't know anyone, which is kind of fun, too. It's very different from the last past seven years. It's going to be exciting.”

As for the mismatched outfit he’s been wearing on the ice in Arlington the past few days? 

“I got some [Devils] practice jerseys, but I didn’t bring them over,” he said with a smile. “I have them in Sweden because I felt I had enough stuff to bring over with me. And I didn’t think I was going to skate here, either.”

MORE CAPITALS: The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps — No. 17 Christian Djoos

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Upper-body injury keeps Andre Burakovsky out of practice

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Upper-body injury keeps Andre Burakovsky out of practice

Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky did not practice on Monday morning due to an upper-body injury, the team announced.

Although the Caps did not specify the location or the nature of the injury, replays showed Burakovsky remove his left glove and flex his hand after drawing a hooking foul with about two minutes remaining in Washington’s 4-1 loss to Florida. He was also examined by team doctors after the game.

RELATED: CAPS TUMBLE IN LATEST POWER RANKINGS

Burakovsky has a goal and three assists in nine games this season.

With Burakovsky sidelined on Monday, Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his forward lines, promoting Alex Chiasson to the second combo with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov while dropping Jakub Vrana to the third line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller. Burakovsky’s injury also drew Nathan Walker back into the regular rotation; he was on the left side of the fourth line.  

The Caps do not play again until Thursday in Vancouver so they’ve got time to evaluate Burakovsky’s progress and weigh their options if he is unable to suit up.

Burakovsky missed 15 games with a broken right hand last season.

MORE CAPITALS: ROOKIES MAKE ROOKIE MISTAKES AND THE CAPS HAD THEIR SHARE OF THEM ON SATURDAY

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NHL Power Rankings: Caps at 20, in search for gold out west

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NHL Power Rankings: Caps at 20, in search for gold out west

The Caps are a .500 team through their first nine games of the 2017-18 season and that's unfamiliar territory for this team. A 4-4-1 start is Washington's worst start to a season since 2013-14 when the team 4-5-0 in what would be Adam Oates' final year as head coach.

We knew this year was not going to be a Presidents' Trophy year for the Caps after their roster turnover in the offseason led to a few holes on the team. Those holes have been evident in the season's first month of play.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

A shaky defense has been made worse by an injury to Matt Niskanen that will keep him out at least until the beginning of November. That leaves the team with a top-six that includes two rookies, depends on John Carlson playing huge minutes and a 37-year-old Brooks Orpik taking on a more significant role than last season.

Depth scoring has also been an issue. Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom have combined for 19 of the teams' 27 goals. Washington needs more production from its bottom two lines and even the blue line where Christian Djoos is the only defenseman on the team to score.

It's still early in the season so there's no reason to panic.The good news is that they still have time to work on all of these issues. A 4-4-1 record is not an insurmountable hole for the team to climb out of. The bad news is that the clock is ticking.

Statistically speaking, teams that are in playoff position at Thanksgiving tend to stay there. That gives Barry Trotz and Brian MacLellan four weeks to determine the strength of the team they have and makes some tough decisions going forward regarding lines, trades and future contracts.

One thing's for sure, they will have to play better than they have thus far. See where the Caps have fallen here in this week's NHL Power Rankings.