Determining starter vs. Sabres another ‘difficult decision’ for Oates

January 12

Michal Neuvirth finished with 32 saves against the Maple Leafs Friday night. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

There are no easy decisions for a team with three goaltenders. Philipp Grubauer, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have each appeared in one of the last three games with Grubauer and Neuvirth both winning their outings.

So where does that leave the Capitals ahead of Sunday’s matinee against the Buffalo Sabres? The same place they’ve been since they began carrying a trio of netminders in December.

“It makes it very difficult,” Coach Adam Oates said. “Grubi’s had some good starts consecutively, Neuvy didn’t get a chance to play for a while, came in last night played great. Played a really good game — watching it over he played good, good for him. But it makes for difficult decisions.”

Grubauer made 33 saves in a 4-3 win against Tampa Thursday, Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 victory against Toronto Friday and it wouldn’t be surprising to Oates go back to either one of them for Sunday’s game.

Holtby’s last outing, however, was far less glamorous as he allowed five goals on 11 shots in a 5-3 loss at Minnesota Jan. 4. But perhaps a start against the league-worst Sabres would help to begin rebuilding Holtby’s confidence as Washington looks to win a third game in a row.

Regardless which goaltender gets the start against Buffalo, one of the three will spend the afternoon as a healthy scratch in the press box. But Oates doesn’t believe that there’s much difference where goalies are concerned between sitting out or serving as a backup.

“I think they all want to start too. Even sitting on the bench most guys don’t want to do that but it’s part of the gig,” Oates said. “They’re young guys they’re going to get plenty of chances. I know they don’t want to hear that but they’re gonna.”

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