SUNRISE, Fla. In a surprise move that probably did not sit well with Tomas Vokoun, Capitals coach Dale Hunter will start Michal Neuvirth against the Florida Panthers tonight in what can be considered one of the most important games of the season.
Vokoun, 35, is coming off a strong 27-save performance in Tuesday nights 4-3 overtime loss to the Lightning. He has faced his former team just once this season, shutting them out 3-0 on Oct. 18 in Washington.
Its tough coming off of five days off (for the All-Star break) and then play back-to-back games, Hunter said after an optional practice on Wednesday. It's a lot to ask right off the hop.
Neuvirth (6-7-3) has not played since Jan. 22 in Pittsburgh when the Caps lost 4-3 in overtime. In his only start this season against the Panthers Neuvirth was lit up for five goals in a 5-4 loss in Sunrise on Dec. 5.
Vokouns wife and two daughters live in nearby Parkland, but they have not yet seen him play in Sunrise as a member of the Capitals. Vokoun (20-12-1) has been passed over in two straight opportunities to play in front of his family.
In another surprise move defenseman Jeff Schultz will return to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 31 and enforcer Joel Rechlicz is slated to play his second straight game as a Capital, an indication hell be in the lineup when the Caps visit rene Bourque and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Bourque, you may remember, knocked Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup with an elbow to the Backstroms chin on Jan. 4 as a member of the Calgary Flames. Backstrom has not played since.