Michal Neuvirth will make a fifth consecutive start tonight as the Capitals take on a Buffalo squad anxious for a win. The Sabres have lost three straight and are trying to avoid dropping four consecutive contests in regulation for the first time since February of 2010.
This is the longest stretch of starts Neuvirth has seen this season and the 23-year-old Czech has stopped 97 of the 103 shots he’s faced in the four games prior to this one for a .941 save percentage.
While Neuvirth is being able to continue on this roll, veteran Tomas Vokoun hasn’t played in 13 days.
“Right now it’s just a gut feeling,” Coach Dale Hunter said when asked why he decided to go with Neuvirth against the Sabres. “Michal’s been playing well. He got a couple days rest so he should be fresh again.”
Vokoun hasn’t played since Dec. 13 against Philadelphia when he allowed four goals on 21 shots in the first two periods of that contest. The 35-year-old netminder was pulled and did not play the third period against the Flyers.
Vokoun, who has admitted several times that he has not been as consistent as he would like this season, has a 2.81 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and a 12-8-0 record this year.
“I don’t know what I did wrong to be in this spot,” Vokoun said. “I’m a professional hockey player. I don’t make decisions — who plays who doesn’t.”
Hunter said he isn’t worried about the effects of holding Vokoun out of game action for the extended period of time.
“Tomas he’s a veteran guy, he gets ready in practice for games he practices like they are games out there,” Hunter said. “He tries so hard and bears down, he’ll be game-ready when he’s needed.”