400th goal puts Ovechkin in special company
Capitals coach Adam Oates said today he’ll wait until tonight to decide whether he’ll give rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer his fifth start in seven games when the Caps face the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center.
Grubauer has gone 4-0-1 in his five appearances since being recalled by the Caps after Michal Neuvirth suffered a right ankle injury when he stepped on a puck on Black Friday.
Neuvirth is healthy but he did not dress for the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night and he is not expected to dress tonight. If Grubauer starts tonight, Braden Holtby is expected to serve as his backup.
“I don’t know what’s the plan,” Neuvirth said. “They haven’t really talked to me. I’ve just gone day by day and I work hard in practice.
“Like I said, I want to be a No. 1 goalie in this league and if not here maybe somewhere else.”
Neuvirth clearly has become frustrated at his lack of playing time this season. He has appeared in just seven of the Caps’ 35 games this season and has a 2-3-1 record with a 2.83 GAA and .912 save percentage.
He also was told recently that because of his lack of playing time he will not be invited to play for the Czech Olympic team in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
“They’re going to look at some goalies in the KHL,” he said.
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A number of NHL teams have been rumored to be seeking a goaltender, including the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders. NHL teams cannot make trades until the holiday roster freeze is lifted on Dec. 28.
Oates said it’s “amazing” to see what Grubauer, 22, has done with his opportunity. He received his first start of the season, and second of his NHL career, on Dec. 8 in New York and has allowed just 11 goals in last five appearances.
“He got his chance,” Oates said. “He came in [against the Rangers] and had a great night and right away it gave the team some confidence. Every night he’s gone in so far he’s built on that.”
With Michal Latta and Brooks Laich on injured reserve, the Caps can afford to carry three goaltenders. But that will be changing this week and Oates said he’s had multiple conversations with goalie coach Olie Kolzig about that the team should do next.
“Olie and I talk about it all day long,” Oates said. “You want to win tonight, but you want to win every night. So there’s got to be a plan.”
Injury update: Top-line left wing Marcus Johansson skated briefly on his own today and is questionable for tonight. If Johansson does not play, Eric Fehr might take his place on the top line, with Marty Erat moving up to second-line left wing, Jay Beagle moving up to third-line center and Casey Wellman filling in as a fourth-line center. Meanwhile, Brooks Laich skated hard for the sixth straight day and reported no pain. Oates said he would like to see Laich participate in a full contact practice before putting him in a game. The Caps do not have a full practice scheduled until next Saturday. “I know he’s feeling a lot better,” Oates said. “Until I see him in a team practice and contact, I’m not getting my hopes up.”