Philipp Grubauer will make his first career NHL start Saturday afternoon as the Capitals take on the Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Coach Adam Oates said all along that he wanted to split the back-to-back games this weekend in order to give Braden Holtby, who has made 11 consecutive starts, a rest even if just for one day. Holtby is expected to start on Sunday against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center.
Oates said he also hopes that the Capitals will rally around the 21-year-old Grubauer as he makes his first NHL start.
“We’re looking for Grubs to come in and give us a little life in here,” Oates said. “Make sure that the troops fire up for him, maybe [create] a little spark.”
Grubauer made his NHL debut in a relief outing on Feb. 27 at Philadelphia. He stopped all 14 of the shots he faced that day and having already gone through the first-appearance nerves might help him against the Islanders.
“It was pretty good,” Grubauer said Friday. “The first couple minutes, get a little bit of experience there and a little bit feeling for the game and what guys do and it helped me a little bit.”
He’ll be opposed by Islanders veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who is 10-7-3 this season with a 2.92 goals against average and .904 save percentage.
There won’t be any changes to the rest of the Capitals’ lineup from who played in the 7-1 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday, which means that Tom Poti and Aaron Volpatti will sit out as the healthy scratches.
Marcus Johansson will miss a 12th consecutive game as he continues to work his way back from a concussion. Johansson, who hasn’t played since Feb. 7, skated Saturday morning at the Coliseum, but Oates wants to make sure his conditioning level is where it should be before inserting him in the lineup.
“He’s feeling better, just got to keep him on the right page and make sure he’s in game shape before he plays,” Oates said. “He’s had a long time off and he’s skated but no contact. It’s a different type of conditioning once you start getting bumped out there.”