While rest certainly isn’t a bad thing at this stage of a compressed season, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby would have rather been in net the past two games.
“I’d rather play. It’s pretty simple,” Holtby said. “I don’t like sitting out, but you take it as it is. As long as we’re winning it doesn’t matter.”
After getting consecutive games off against the Lightning and at the Canadiens, Holtby will be back in net for the Washington Capitals on Thursday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center. It will be Holtby’s 29th start for the Capitals this season.
There was never any doubt that Holtby, Washington’s unquestioned No. 1 goaltender this season, would be back protecting the Capitals’ net soon, regardless of Michal Neuvirth’s success in anchoring consecutive victories over Tampa Bay and Montreal.
Neuvirth allowed four goals on 59 shots in those two games, which were just his third and fourth starts over the past 29 contests. The 25-year-old Czech has started just 11 games this season and missed three other scheduled appearances because of injury and illness.
Given the long stretches of time between appearances, Coach Adam Oates wanted to make sure that Neuvirth had the opportunity to play and stay fresh so that the goaltender would be ready should Washington need to call upon him down the stretch or in the playoffs.
“He should have had three more starts, maybe four now; because he got sick it affected our rhythm,” Oates said. “We’re trying to get that rhythm back while winning games.”
In addition to 28 starts in the NHL this season, Holtby appeared in 25 games in the American Hockey League during the lockout. Oates wanted to give him some time to recharge physically and mentally, whether the 23-year-old Saskatchewan native wanted it or not.
“I just want to go in and perform when I’m asked,” Holtby said. “As far as rest, hopefully it might help, but I’d rather play.”