As expected, Michal Neuvirth was the first goaltender off the ice for the Capitals this morning and looks to be getting the start against the Penguins at Verizon Center, as Coach Bruce Boudreau alluded he would several times.
This will be Neuvirth's first career appearance against the Penguins, who are expected to start Marc-Andre Fleury (15-7-1) 2.30 goals-against average, .917 save percentage. Fleury played in the third period of Pittsburgh's 5-2 win over Florida last night, giving up one goal on 16 shots, when Brent Johnson left the game with an injury.
Some quick morning skate updates from KCI before this afternoon's live Q&A:
--Boudreau said Matt Hendricks is sick, the latest victim of what's been ailing the Capitals, and that he was told to stay home this morning. He will be a game-time decision against the Penguins.
--Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who has been out since breaking his thumb against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 6, took part in the morning skate and was stick handling more than during his previous on-ice sessions.
I talked to Schultz after he finished the long scratches skate this morning. He had the cast taken off his right hand on Tuesday and is now playing with a plastic splint on his thumb. He had been skating with a right handed stick but has switched back to his usual left-handed one these past two days and is now working to build up the strength in his hand again. There's no definite timetable for Schultz's return, but it may be sooner than later.
"It's just a matter of tolerating a little bit of pain when passing and shooting the puck. It's better than I thought it was going to be at this stage after two weeks with the cast," said Schultz, who admitted he would like to be ready for the Winter Classic but doesn't want to rush back. "A lot is up to me, with the pain and what I think I can do out there...I'd like to play in [the Winter Classic] and maybe get a game in before then to just get the feel back, but if it's not good enough to go I'm not going to rush."
--Matt Bradley had successful surgery on his broken finger yesterday, according to a team spokesman. His timeline for a return is still 2-4 weeks.