After making his first start in three weeks Sunday in a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Michal Neuvirth gets the nod for a second straight game for the Capitals and will be in net Tuesday night at the Montreal Canadiens.
This start will be only Neuvirth’s fourth in 29 games, just his fifth appearance in that span, which dated back to early February.
Even though Braden Holtby has emerged as the team’s No. 1 netminder, Coach Adam Oates wants to make sure Neuvirth is fully prepared for whatever the Capitals will ask of him down the stretch in the regular season and into the playoffs.
“I think that going forward — hopefully we get in a good playoff run — you’re going to need both goalies. You will,” Oates said. “I don’t want him to feel that just once every 10 games he’s going to play. He needs to know that he’s a part of our team that he played good the other night and gets the start tonight. [It] gives Holts a little more rest and we’ll go forward.”
Neuvirth allowed a power-play goal to the Lightning on the first shot of the game Sunday but quickly regained his composure and by the end of the contest he stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced. After the win against Tampa Bay, Neuvirth acknowledged it has been difficult for him to find a rhythm this season given the inconsistent workload.
“It’s always tough, but it is what it is,” said Neuvirth, who missed three scheduled starts this season because of illness or injury. “I’m getting pay to stop pucks. That’s what I did [against Tampa Bay]. I’m glad to get back in the action and gave Holts a little bit of rest.”
In seven career appearances against the Canadiens, Neuvirth is 4-2-0 with a .925 save percentage and 2.16 goals-against average but his previous success against the opponent didn’t really factor in to Oates’s decision.
Oates believes it’s important that the Capitals have both goaltenders at the ready both with recent game action. This way he can continue to give Holtby, who has started 28 games this season, a break and ensure Neuvirth is fresh in the event something unexpected occurs.
“What if Holts gets hurt? What happens if we need him?” Oates said. “You can’t just think you’re going to play one game. You’ve got to think that you’re a goalie and you’re a regular.”