Another day, another ticket to Sochi, Russia, for a Washington Capitals player.
Capitals winger Marcus Johansson was added to Team Sweden Feb. 7 to replace the injured Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. Johansson joins teammate Nicklas Backstrom in representing Sweden at the Winter Olympics.
"It's really exciting," Johansson said. "I'm proud, and I can't wait to get started. It's a great feeling to be a part of it."
Alex Ovechkin (Russia), John Carlson (United States) and Martin Erat (Czech Republic) are the other Capitals headed to Russia after the team hosts the New Jersey Devils Feb. 8.
Erat was added to the Czech Republic team Feb. 4 as an injury replacement for Vladimir Sobotka of the St. Louis Blues.
Johansson, 23, has seven goals and 29 assists during 58 games this season. He has skated mostly on the Caps' first line with Backstrom at center and Ovechkin at right wing.
Johansson assisted both of Troy Brouwer's goals during Washington's 4-2 victory Feb. 6 against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
The Capitals drafted Johansson during the first round, 24th overall, of the 2009 NHL Draft. This will be his first time playing at the Olympics.
"There are so many good players," Johansson said. "It's tough to get a spot from the start. … It means everything. It's a dream come true."
As absurd as it sounds in early February, the Capitals are fast approaching must-win territory if they want to qualify for the playoffs.
Eight of Washington's remaining 24 games are against fellow Metropolitan Division teams, so the Capitals (26-23-9) are running out of opportunities to gain extra ground in the standings.
The Caps will host a divisional foe in the Devils (23-21-13) before breaking for the Winter Olympics.
The Capitals are winless during their past seven games (0-6-1) against divisional opponents. Only three of their remaining eight divisional games will be at Verizon Center.
The schedule gets tougher after the Olympics. The Caps will return Feb. 27 at the struggling Florida Panthers (22-28-7), but their March schedule is brutal.
Six of their first seven games in March are against the Boston Bruins (36-16-4), Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-2) and Philadelphia Flyers (29-23-6). Later during the month, the Capitals will go on a three-game road trip, against the Anaheim Ducks (40-14-5), Los Angeles Kings (31-22-6) and San Jose Sharks (36-16-6). They will follow that trip with home games against the Kings and Bruins.
Washington enters the New Jersey game in fifth place (61 points) in the Metropolitan Division. That's four points back of the second-place New York Rangers. They are two points ahead of the Devils and Carolina Hurricanes, but both have played fewer games than the Caps. Pittsburgh (82 points) appears to have first place locked up.
Just when Michal Neuvirth seemed poised to leap on Washington's No. 1 goalie spot, he came down with the flu.
Braden Holtby got the start against the Jets and made 34 saves during the victory.
Neuvirth was the scheduled starter, having made 27 saves during a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders Feb. 4. It would have been his fourth consecutive start.
Neuvirth informed head coach Adam Oates around noon that he was sick. After the morning skate, Oates had said Neuvirth was in good position to win No. 1-type minutes.
"He deserves to play because he played well," Oates said, before learning of Neuvirth's status. "If that turns into being the No. 1 goalie for a while, good for him. Everybody is going to get lots of chances. We say that all the time."
When a reporter told Oates that Neuvirth appeared sick in the locker room, Oates replied, "I haven't heard that."