Pregame primer: Goalie controversy brewing?

Pregame primer: Goalie controversy brewing?
December 30, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Oates: 'I'm not disappointed in the game'

News and notes as the Capitals [20-14-5] visit the Ottawa Senators [16-18-7] tonight at the Canadian Tire Centre [7:30 p.m., CSN]:

Goalie controversy brewing: Capitals coach Adam Oates told reporters in Kanata, Ontario that rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer [5-1-2, 2.02, .937] will make his eighth start in 11 games tonight against the Senators. That’s bad news for Braden Holtby, who was hoping to see his first start since Dec. 21. It’s even worse news for Michal Neuvirth, who has not played since Nov. 22 and will be a healthy scratch for the eighth straight game since returning from a rehab assignment in Hershey. Neuvirth’s agent, Patrik Stefan, told “Let me just put it this way, I want Michal out of Washington.” Oates was not too enthused by Stefan’s comments, telling the Washington Post, “Michal came out last week and said he wants to be a No. 1 somewhere. It’s been out there before, we know it. I don’t know if the agent needs to create another distraction for the locker room in this case. It’s known.”

Laich out: Caps center/left wing Brooks Laich [right groin injury] told the Washington Post he will not be in the lineup tonight, marking the 14th time in 15 games he will be an injury scratch. If that’s the case, look for Oates to go with the same forward lines and defense pairings as Sunday night in Buffalo when the Caps outshot the Sabres 50-17 but still lost 2-1 in a shootout.

[RELATED: Trade coming for Neuvy?]

Trending: The Caps have lost three of their last four games but have also picked up at least a point in three of those four games. 8-3-3 in their last 14 games. The Senators are coming off a 4-3 home win over the Bruins on Saturday, which followed a 5-0 loss in Boston the night before. They are 2-1-1 in their last four but are 8-11-3 in their last 22.

American made:  Caps defenseman John Carlson logged a team-high 24:12 on Sunday against the Sabres, marking the 18th time in the last 20 games he has led the Caps in time on ice. He’s averaging 26:06 in his last 20 games and ranks first among Washington skaters this season at 24:41. In the last two seasons, Carlson ranks third in goals among NHL defenseman born in the United States with 13, trailing only Dustin Byfuglien [15] and Keith Yandle [14]. This season the Natick, Mass., native is tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in goals [7], first among all Capitals in blocked shots [81] and is second on the team in shots [105].

Goodbye, 2013: Tonight marks the Capitals’ final game of the 2013 calendar year. They are 47-32-8 during 2013. In 85 games this calendar year, Alex Ovechkin has 62 goals, the most of any NHL player. Nicklas Backstrom has 74 assists in the calendar year, second behind Sidney Crosby’s 77.

Brouwer power: Troy Brouwer scored the Caps’ only goal against Ryan Miller and the Sabres on Sunday, giving him seven points in his last six games. Oates said it was Brouwer’s best game of the season while giving credit to his linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Eric Fehr as well.

Leaderboard: Offensively, the Senators are led by defenseman Erik Karlsson [10 goals, 27 assists, 37 points], right wing Bobby Ryan [18-17-35] and centers Jason Spezza [11-19-30] and Kyle Turris [9-21-30].

Statistically speaking: The Caps are 8-3 in shootouts this season; the Sens are 1-5. The Caps are 10-5 in overtime; the Sens are 3-7.

Angry Neil: Senators tough guy Chris Neil leads the team with 99 penalty minutes and needs one goal to reach 100 in his NHL career. Earlier this month he surpassed 2,100 in career penalty minutes.