Braden Holtby has never had a stretch quite like the past few weeks since he was recalled by the Capitals on Oct. 25. Over those 24 days, the 21-year-old netminder has started two games and appeared in a third, which is the longest he can recall having not played on a regular basis.
"It's been weird," Holtby said. "I don't know if you ever get used to it; it's not something I ever want to get used to by any means, but when you're asked to play you're asked to play well and that's what I'm looking to do.
"It's kind of part of the job," he said. "I sat on the bench two games straight in [the ECHL's] South Carolina at the start of last year and a year later I'm here. Goaltending's kind of a weird situation like that and you can't think about it too much."
Holtby understands that his role in Washington right now is as a backup to Michal Neuvirth, and Coach Bruce Boudreau said he plans on getting both goaltenders a start in back-to back games this weekend. Boudreau wouldn't divulge who will play where, and a case could be made for either player to start Friday's tilt in Atlanta or Saturday's against the Flyers at home.
Whichever contest, it will mark Holtby's fourth appearance in a game for the Capitals. Despite the light workload he's seen, the team believes that Holtby is gaining valuable experience with NHL teammates around him as Semyon Varlamov works with the Bears to recover from the latest set back with his groin injury.
"We've talked to goalie coaches in what would be best for his development and they all think this is it," Boudreau said when asked if there was concerned in the lack of play for Holtby. "When he does get in, he's gaining more confidence every day. I would think if things happen and Varly and him make a switch at some point, [Holtby] would feel very good about his chances of becoming an NHL goaltender."
Boudreau also pointed out that with the time in Washington, Holtby can receive individual instruction from goaltending coach Arturs Irbe on a daily basis, something that isn't available in Hershey.
"Last year was a weird year for me because I didn't really have a goalie coach too much," said Holtby, who played 12 games with the Stingrays and 40 total games with Hershey last year. "Archie had his hands full here with a lot of injuries and Neuvy being the new guy up here last year. So it was a learning experience for me last year, but there's nothing better than having a goalie coach there, because someone's got to make sure that the forwards aren't fooling around much."
More news and notes from this morning's optional practice coming up.