Braden Holtby will get the start tonight as the Capitals host the Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center in what is a crucial game for both teams’ playoff hopes.
“Pretty excited for it,” Holtby said. “It’s a big game but at the same time, it’s just another one. It counts as two points just the same as all the others do. Got to go into it with that mindset but there will be a little extra motivation to have the team going and get a win.”
With no goaltender having emerged as the definitive go-to option for the Capitals at this stage of the season, Holtby’s performance since the team recalled him on March 18 (2-0-1, .955 save percentage and 1.29 GAA) has made it a three-man race for the job.
Given his recent outings, the Capitals aren’t worried about throwing a 22-year-old with only 18 NHL games to his credit into what should be the most intense contest of his young career in the league.
“He’s come up here and has played well. It’s a big game for him,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “Going into Detroit, going into Philly, those are tough situations. He’s been good under pressure; he’s always been good under pressure, people tell me. He’s a kid that wants to rise to the occasion.”
Holtby has faced the Sabres once before – a 3-2 loss in overtime back on Nov. 12, 2010 that saw the netminder stop 24 of the 27 shots he faced. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s expected starter, Ryan Miller, has made 22 appearances against the Capitals over the course of his career.
Holtby isn’t worried about a lack of familiarity with his foe, though.
“You can look at it both ways — they haven’t seen me, either,” Holtby said. “I probably get to watch them on TV more than they ever get to see me, so it’s probably an advantage to me. At the same time, when you’re on the ice all that kind of goes away and you battle for what you can take and try your best to get a win.”
A few more notes from the morning skate:
— It appears as though the Capitals will go with seven defensemen for the second straight game. Both Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward took part in extra work after the main group wrapped up their on-ice session. For Halpern, this will be the second consecutive game and seventh out of the last 10 he has served as a healthy scratch. Meanwhile, Ward will miss a third straight game after taking a shot off his foot last Thursday in Philadelphia.
— Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) skated for the 14th time in the past 15 days. He took part in both the regular morning skate and extra work with the scratches.
— Tomas Vokoun (groin) also worked out on the ice today after the main group began to head into the dressing room.
— It was an optional skate this morning and Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich all elected not to take part. John Erskine, who has a lower-body injury, was the only other player on the active roster not to skate.
More from Post Sports:
— Did The Post spark Alex Ovechkin’s surge?
— Capitals enjoy playing in front of Holtby
— Ryan Miller, balanced offense lead Sabres push
— Hunter: Game vs. Sabres like Game 7
— Backstrom encouraged by Monday’s practice