PHILADELPHIA — The Capitals will go back to top netminder Braden Holtby for Tuesday’s rematch against the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Holtby will be making his first appearance since Dec. 10 against Tampa Bay, when he was pulled less than 12 minutes into the contest after allowing three goals on eight shots. He’s been pulled from two of his past three starts but it was time, Coach Adam Oates said, that the Capitals give him another start.
“It’s been too long,” Oates said. “He’s had a chance to regroup a little bit and expect a great game.”
Over the past week as Philipp Grubauer handled the bulk of the workload, Holtby’s taken the opportunity to focus on cleaning up a few areas of his game including how to better handle some of the long-range shots that have been getting past him recently.
“Just a little bit of foot positioning on the longer-range shots, the direct shots. That’s the main thing because every goal that I’d like to have back seems to be the same the stick on stick contact shot,” said Holtby, who will be making his 26th start of the season. “When there’s a pattern like that you try and correct it. You try and work in practice on getting a better read on those type of shots, it’s all you can do.”
As everyone remembers, the last game Holtby played here was quite eventful. He recorded a 30-save shutout in Washington’s 7-0 win over the Flyers on Nov. 1 but also was assaulted by Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery – an altercation that may lead to the league’s general managers implementing a rule that prohibits goaltenders from crossing the red line.
>> Brooks Laich, who is on the long-term injured reserve list with a lingering groin problem, made the trip to Philadelphia with the team and was on the ice for a second straight day Tuesday. Laich, 30, has been hampered by this nagging groin problem dating back to last season when he was limited to only nine games and underwent abdominal surgery in attempt to correct the issue.
Laich acknowledged when the problem flared up in late November that he and his doctors never identified the cause of the injury, but he believes they’ve found it now — that a back problem has been leading to the pain in his groin.
“It looks like the problem was maybe coming more from my back which was hard because I’ve never had any back pain and we’ve tried some stuff with the back that’s really got me back on the ice and I’m really excited about,” Laich said Tuesday morning. The earliest he is eligible to be activated from LTIR is Dec. 22, meaning the first game he could potentially play in is Dec. 23 against the Anaheim Ducks at Verizon Center.
While Laich plans on traveling with the team to Carolina later this week to continue working out and gradually ramping up his on-ice activity, he’s trying not to put a date on his recovery.
“For me it’s important to be 100 percent when I come back. I can’t come back at 70 percent, I can’t come back at 80 percent. I need to be fully comfortable when I return because I don’t want this to happen again,” Laich said. “I firmly believe that we’ve identified the source of the problem so moving forward it should be [easier]. Before we were trying to pick one of 15 things that could possibly be reflecting the pain to that area and now I think we’ve actually narrowed it down to the source of the problem, so treating it further down the road should be easier for us to prevent a relapse from occurring.”
>> Washington placed Michael Latta, who suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday, on the regular injured reserve list to open up a space for Casey Wellman on the 23-man active roster.
Wellman is expected to center the fourth line against the Flyers, making Tuesday night his first NHL game since Jan. 19, 2012.
“I just need to make sure that I’m real structured because if you make a mistake here it’s capitalized on,” Wellman said. “I’ve just got to make sure I’m structured, focused and ready to go.”
>> Projected lineups for both teams
Braden Holtby will start, Philipp Grubauer will back up.
Michael Raffl-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek
Scott Hartnell-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Steve Downie
Zac Rinaldo-Adam Hall-Jay Rosehill
Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit-Nick Grossman
Andrej Meszaros-Luke Schenn
Steve Mason will start. Ray Emery will back up