Last week, when Capitals coach Dale Hunter was asked about how he planned to divvy up the goaltending duties for the upcoming week, he replied, "I'm a tonight guy. Whoever's playing good will play."
If Hunter goes by that premise tonight in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes, Michal Neuvirth will be rewarded for his 31-save shutout over the Canadiens Wednesday night in Montreal.
Neuvirth beat the Canes 5-1 back on Nov 4 and has a career mark of 3-1 against them. Vokoun is 13-10-1 against the Hurricanes in his career.
But it's not a slam dunk by any stretch. Tomas Vokoun ran off seven wins in his previous 10 starts and was a victim of his teammates' poor play in Tuesday night's 3-0 home loss to the Islanders.
Because of Vokoun's run of success, Neuvirth sat and watched for 23 straight days and his start in Montreal was his first since the day after Christmas in Buffalo, when he was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots.
"Im pretty happy with my performance," Neuvirth told reporters after Wednesday night's win in Montreal, "but Vokeys playing great right now and weve been winning all the hockey games. So hes No. 1 and Im just happy to get a start, and I got a big W for myself and the team."
Clearly, the Caps needed to rebound from a sleepy loss the night before against the Islanders. But for Neuvirth Wednesday night's game was a chance to get back on track after starting the season 5-7-2 with a 3.23 GAA and .886 save percentage. No matter how strong he plays in the second half of the season, it will impossible for Neuvirth to duplicate his strong numbers from last season (27-12-4, 2.45 .914).
But he also knows that anything can happen in the playoffs, especially with a coach who has had no problem playing the hot hand.