Of Youth ... And AgePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau put together an interesting forward trio for Thursday’s practice prior to his team’s departure for a two-game weekend road trip. The line consisted of center Marcus Johansson flanked by Cody Eakin on the left and Mathieu Perreault on the right. Aside from the notable fact that all three are natural centers, the other obvious characteristic that the threesome shares is its youth and relative lack of NHL experience. At 23, Perreault is the greybeard of the bunch. Johansson is 21 and Eakin is 20. Johansson’s 78 games of NHL experience tops the trio, while Perreault has skated in 64 contests in the league. Eakin has skated in just one NHL tilt; he made his debut in the league in Tuesday night’s 5-4 win over Anaheim. Would Boudreau put these three together for Friday night’s game in Raleigh? “There’s not a lot of experience there,” admits Boudreau, “but all over history in hockey you have so-called ‘Kid Lines.’ Every team has them. We hadn’t had one before, but it just seemed that this was a proper time just to see what the enthusiasm of three young guys would bring to a practice. “They bring a lot of speed and a lot of enthusiasm. I don’t know if they’ll be together [in Carolina on Friday], but we’ll see.” There has been a long and storied history of youthful units being named “The Kid Line.” The first and still most famous was the Toronto Maple Leafs trio of Harvey “Busher” Jackson, Joe Primeau and Charlie Conacher in the 1930s. All three are now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 1940s Leafs line of Ted Kennedy, Howie Meeker and Vic Lynn was also dubbed “The Kid Line” as was the 1960s era Leafs line of Brit Selby, Pete Stemkowski and Ron Ellis. In Edmonton last week, the Caps went up against the Oilers’ young trio of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. Troy Brouwer, who had been skating on the right side of a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, was injured late in the Anaheim game. He appears doubtful for Friday’s game against the Hurricanes, so some line adjusting is in the works. Boudreau had Alexander Semin skating with Ovechkin and Backstrom at practice on Thursday, but it would also be easy for the Caps’ coach to slide Mike Knuble up to the right side with Ovechkin and Backstrom; those three skated together for the better part of the previous two seasons. Semin could then slot in alongside Johansson and Eakin; those three created some strong scoring chances against Anaheim. The checking line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward seems a lock to stay together; they were brilliant against the Ducks and shut down Carolina’s Eric Staal and company at even-strength in the Caps’ Oct. 8 season-opener against the Canes. That would leave Matt Hendricks, Perreault and Jeff Halpern to populate the fourth line. Those three also have a brief history of skating together. We’ll see tomorrow. Bruce’s mileage may vary; it often does. Noteworthy: According to the good folks at Elias Sports Bureau, Backstrom became just the second Capital ever to score a game-tying tally in the final minute of regulation and then follow up with the game-winner in overtime of the same contest when he turned the trick on Tuesday against the Ducks. Ovechkin did so previously against the Thrashers in Atlanta on Dec. 15, 2006. Backstrom was the first NHL player to achieve the feat since Jamie Langenbrunner (then with New Jersey) did it against Pittsburgh on Jan. 30, 2009. Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne hung a four-point effort (two goals, two assists) on the Caps on Tuesday, making Washington the only Eastern Conference team to be the victim of as many as 20 of Selanne’s 600-plus career NHL goals. Again, according to the diligent folks at Elias Sports Bureau, Selanne – at the age of 41 years, 121 days – became the oldest NHL player to register a four-point game since the late Tim Horton had four assists for the Penguins in a game against Philadelphia. Horton was three days past his 42nd birthday at the time. Aside from Selanne and Horton, only the legendary Gordie Howe has registered a four-point game at a more advanced age. Mr. Hockey did it three times.
When the Caps and Carolina Hurricanes last met on Oct. 8 at Verizon Center, Washington prevailed by a 4-3 count in overtime. Two of the Canes’ goals that night were scored on the power play, and the third came while Carolina had goaltender Brian Boucher pulled in favor of an extra attacker late in