Rookie Philipp Grubauer will make his fifth consecutive start and ninth in 12 games Thursday when the Capitals host the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center. Since being recalled on Nov. 30, the 22-year-old has gradually asserted himself atop the depth chart with consistently strong outings regardless of the opponent he’s faced.
“I think we’ve all seen that since he came here he’s given us a feeling of confidence and I think the players feel that, we feel that. Good for him, he’s earned it,” said Coach Adam Oates who was asked if Grubauer’s presence in Washington would be long-term. “I don’t know. It’s a difficult situation. I’m sure it will play itself out.”
Grubauer (5-2-2, 2.02 goals-against average, .938 save percentage) lost back-to-back games in Buffalo and Ottawa this weekend but stopped 51 of the 54 shots in those games combined and gave the Capitals a chance to win in both games. With all players, though, Oates chooses to focus on how they played, not necessarily the result.
“We obviously want to win for sure, but how do we play. If you win 7-6 and you played lousy, yeah you’re happy about the win but you’re not happy about how the team played,” Oates said. “To me, every individual player, goalies included go through the same evaluation. He played two good games. I know he had two losses, but he played two good games.”
Grubauer also played well against the Hurricanes back on Dec. 20 in Raleigh, where he stopped all but two of the 41 shots he faced in a 4-2 Washington win.
With the Capitals continuing to rely on Grubauer, the other two netminders remain on the shelf. Braden Holtby hasn’t played since a 5-4 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 21 and Michal Neuvirth is expected to be a healthy scratch for a ninth consecutive game.