Michal Neuvirth won’t have to wait seven weeks between starts this time around. The Capitals announced that Neuvirth will make his second start in four games Wednesday night, facing the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Coach Adam Oates said following the loss to San Jose Tuesday that his first inclination was to give rookie Philipp Grubauer, who made 28 saves against the Sharks, the night off since the Caps are playing back-to-back games during a hectic portion of the schedule.
Neuvirth, 2-0-2 with a .937 save percentage and 1.72 goals-against average against Pittsburgh, makes a logical alternative. Braden Holtby is 0-4 with a .857 save percentage and 4.38 goals-against average against the Penguins.
Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 10, his first start since Nov. 22 after an ankle injury combined with Grubauer’s rise to prominence left him on the shelf for nearly two months. He played well and even though Neuvirth’s agent has requested the goaltender be traded, for the time being it’s not surprising to see the Capitals use all three netminders on the active roster. At the very least, a strong performance can’t hurt Neuvirth’s potential trade value.
>> While Capitals-Penguins is certainly a rivalry, it hasn’t quite evolved as many thought it would after the two teams faced off in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. But that doesn’t mean that players and coaches on both sides don’t get up for this matchup.
“I know our feeling hasn’t changed much when it comes to playing the Capitals. Whether it’s ’09 or since then,” Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday. “There’s a strong rivalry there. We don’t depict hockey in head-to-head matchups ever in our room but it still feels like a head-to-head matchup when it comes to the Capitals. Ovi and our team, Ovi and [Sidney Crosby], Ovi and [Evgeni Malkin]. … I know we’re already treating it like this is a rivalry game. The ire is up already.”
>>Projected lineups for both teams
Michal Neuvirth will start.
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Brandon Sutter
Jussi Jokinen-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
Tanner Glass-Nick Drazenovic-Craig Adams
Taylor Pyatt-Zach Sill-Deryk Engelland/Pierre Luc Letourneau-Leblond
Brooks Orpik-Robert Bortuzzo
Rob Scuderi-Kris Letang
Olli Maatta-Matt Niskanen
Marc-Andre Fleury will start.