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Sabres Vs. Capitals: Marcus Johansson Replaces Nicklas Backstrom On Top Line

The Washington Capitals are winning games, but they haven't had a ton of consistency with their lines. Therefore, coach Bruce Boudreau has decided to do something drastic: break up his top line.

After a game and a half of mixing and matching, Boudreau has decided to start rookie center Marcus Johansson alongside Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble on the first line. That will send Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin's longtime running mate, to the second line, where he will work with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich.

The operative question is, why? Boudreau said he wants more balance on the lines. Via Corey Masisak, writing for

"Sometimes they need a break," Boudreau said. "What we need -- and I know it is crazy to say because of where we rank in goals for -- but we need way more balance. If you load up on one line it is going to be easier to check them. I know they love playing together, but it is something that we have an option and it makes it difficult for other teams. Do you put your best defensemen against Nicky and Semin or do you put them against Alex? It gives us options."    

Another possibility is that the top line isn't pulling its weight defensively. That's Knuble's explanation, at least.

"(Boudreau) may be trying to make a point," Knuble said. "He said something the other day about responsibility on each line and being responsible on each line. We know we have a number of guys who can score goals and will score goals, but we have to be better as a group. That (scoring depth) will carry us through the regular season, but we've got to be better as a group come April about keeping them out. It can't be about beating teams 6-4, 6-5. We can't do that. We can't expect to score five, six goals every night."

Either way, it's a major promotion for Johansson. He's missed most of the season with injury, but the team clearly believes in him.