Updated, 12:45 p.m.
The wait is over for Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
The Capitals said Friday morning that the 22-year-old netminder will get his first start since Jan. 22 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday at Verizon Center.
Holtby started the first two games of the regular season, but struggled with his teammates still in the early stages of learning Coach Adam Oates’s system. He allowed 10 goals on 73 shots and currently sports a 5.04 goals against average and .863 save percentage.
Holtby said any rust from the time off is a moot point with the Capitals off to a slow start and trying to end a two-game losing skid. He made his first career NHL start in a home win over Philadelphia back on Nov. 7, 2010.
“It’s different not playing for awhile, but I don’t think that’ll effect anything,” said Holtby, who has a .943 save percentage in two career appearances against the Flyers. “Right now, we need a win and all that other stuff doesn’t matter. How many days between starts? How we played before? Right now, we just have to focus on giving our team the best chance to win and see where it takes us.”
Michal Neuvirth got the nod in Washington’s past five games, including Thursday night’s 3-2 loss at Toronto. He went 1-3-1 in the starting lineup, with a 2.97 goals against average and a .899 save percentage.
Holtby noted that it seems the Capitals are playing Oates’s system better in recent games, even if it was hard to notice amid the cavalcade of penalties that slowed down Washington against the Maple Leafs.
“I think it’s improving a lot and tonight’s gonna be a big one to see the character, especially in this room, and see what we come out with,” Holtby said.
The Capitals had a light scratches skate Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, as they’re in the midst of playing three games in four days. In addition to Holtby, defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti and center Mathieu Perreault, injured forward Brooks Laich (groin) and injured defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) were also on the ice.
The amount of time Hamrlik, Poti and Perreault spent training suggests they once again won’t be in the lineup tonight. Oates will address reporters to clarify the situation later this afternoon.
Hillen suffered his injury in Washington’s season opener and declined to update his health after skating/ Laich, who has yet to appear in a game this year after injuring his groin while playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout, took the ice with teammates during Thursday’s morning skate in Toronto for the first time this season.