After spending the better part of two months mainly as a backup, Braden Holtby will be back in the starting net for the Capitals Tuesday night as they host the Ottawa Senators.
This will be Holtby’s second start in January and first since Jan. 4 at Minnesota, where he allowed five goals on 11 shots in a 5-3 loss to the Wild. He’s stopped 37 of the 40 shots he’s faced in relief appearances these past two games in New York and Columbus, though, and is ready to reclaim the net.
“As a professional athlete you want to compete you want to be a part of something you want to be a part of the team winning games. That’s the exciting part but the focus is still calm, just another game,” Holtby said Tuesday. “The way I’m going to prepare tonight is as if nothing’s changed from any other game that I’ve played.”
But things have changed for Holtby over the past several weeks. After starting 24 of the first 29 games this season, Holtby saw rookie Philipp Grubauer claim the top spot and start 14 of 20 games before he was reassigned to Hershey on Monday. Now that Washington’s depth chart lists only two netminders, the team needs Holtby to regain the confidence that made him their playoff starter each of the past two seasons.
Coach Adam Oates said he just wants the same thing from Holtby he asks of any player in a new role or in their first game back in the saddle.
“I just want a good game. [Holtby’s been a] little bit unlucky. Minnesota’s unlucky because the shots are not indicative of how he played and I think it’s right there for him,” Oates said. “We’ve got to play good in front of him and he’s got to play good for us.”
Holtby is glad to have only two goaltenders on the roster once again but knows that it’s not enough for him to have the opportunity to reclaim his spot as Washington’s number one. He needs to earn it.
“It’s a relief in the fact that you get your own net at practice and you get to practice a lot more, I feel like I’m not going to fall behind anymore from not being able to practice and that’s a plus,” Holtby said. “But at the same time you have to perform no matter what the circumstances are, how many goalies or what. You have to perform, you have to win games and you have to make saves for your team and that’s what my plan is.”
>> Several folks have asked on Twitter and via email if today’s wintry weather would impact the game tonight. It will not. The Capitals said the game will go on as scheduled with a 7 p.m. start against Ottawa at Verizon Center. If you plan on taking Metro, remember that the rail system may reduce service during the afternoon and evening, depending on the weather. Stay safe out there, everyone.
>> If you missed it earlier, here’s the news on the Capitals recalling Nate Schmidt and assigning Steve Oleksy to Hershey.
>> Projected lineups for both teams, with the caveat that this is the lineup the Capitals will use if Alex Ovechkin is unable to play. If Ovechkin does suit up against the Senators expect the lines to change, so be sure to check back around warmups.
Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan
Zack Smith-Jason Spezza-Erik Condra
Matt Kassian-Mika Zibanejad-Milan Michalek
Colin Greening-Stephen Da Costa-Chris Neil
Jared Cowen-Erik Karlsson
Marc Methot-Eric Gryba
Chris Phillips-Cody Ceci
Craig Anderson will start, Robin Lehner will back up.