Morning skate: Grubauer again? Neuvirth unhappy

December 21, 2013

Philipp Grubauer beat Carolina Friday and was the only goalie not to skate Saturday morning. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Capitals held an optional morning skate at Kettler Capitals IcePlex in advance of Saturday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. Two of the team’s three active goalies – Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth – skated. Philipp Grubauer, who was outstanding in Friday night’s 4-2 victory at Carolina, did not skate, and Coach Adam Oates said the team is still deciding who will face the Devils.

But Oates knows what the Capitals have in Grubauer for the time being: A confident young goalie who has been able to steal Washington games. Grubauer is 4-0-1 with a 2.05 goals against average in six appearances.

“Right away, he gave the team some confidence,” Oates said Saturday morning. “And every night he’s gone in so far, he’s been able to build on that.”

This, though, leaves the other two goalies a bit restless. Neuvirth, who missed time with a right ankle injury, hasn’t played for the Capitals since Nov. 22.

“It’s going day by day,” Neuvirth said Saturday morning. “I don’t know what’s the plan. I haven’t really talked to anyone, so just going day by day and working in practice.”

Clearly, though, he is frustrated.

“I want to be a No. 1 goalie in this league,” he said. “If not here, maybe somewhere else.”

Other notes from the morning skate:

  • Oates said forward Marcus Johansson will be a game-time decision after he suffered a lower body injury against Carolina. Johansson suffered the injury on a first-period hit but played into the second period. “Just a little sore,” Oates said. “More precautionary.” Johansson was one of the few Capitals who skated.
  • In the final minute of Friday’s win, with the Capitals protecting a 3-2 lead and the Hurricanes’ net empty, forward Joel Ward was preparing to go onto the ice to relieve Alex Ovechkin. “I thought he was coming to the bench,” Ward said. “And he decided he didn’t, and I decided to go back.” Ovechkin, of course, changed course because the puck came his way, and he buried it into the empty net for his 400th career goal.
  • Forward Brooks Laich, who hasn’t played since Nov. 27 because of a groin injury, skated again Saturday morning and said he now doesn’t think about the injury while he’s on the ice. He’s eligible to come off injured reserve for Monday’s game against Anaheim – when Bruce Boudreau will return to Verizon Center. But Oates reiterated that he wants to see more from Laich before he plays him. “I know he’s feeling a lot better,” Oates said. “We haven’t really had a team practice. Like I said, until I see him in a team practice, with contact, I’m not getting my hopes up.” That might mean Laich won’t play until Dec. 29 in Buffalo. The Capitals will be off Sunday, then off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the Christmas break, and won’t have a full practice in advance of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers. A week from Saturday would be the first chance for a full workout.
Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.
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