Nicklas Backstrom’s return to the lineup tonight against Montreal is certainly the biggest news of the day but there are a few other items of note from the morning skate as the Capitals head into another important contest.
— Michal Neuvirth gets the nod in net against the Canadiens. It marks his first start since March 23 against Winnipeg, in which he gave up four goals on 42 shots, and comes after his 19-save relief outing in a 3-2 shootout win over Boston on Thursday night.
“He deserved it from last game,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “Going to a shootout against Boston, if you see the stats from the shooters on Boston, they’re right up there so he made big saves and got us a big win.”
Neuvirth, who was the Capitals’ starter in last year’s playoffs, said on Friday he’s ready for whatever the remainder of this year has in store for him now that Tomas Vokoun has been sidelined once again by a groin muscle strain.
In five career appearances against the Canadiens, Neuvirth is 3-1-0 with a .935 save percentage and 1.32 goals-against average. This season, Neuvirth is 2-0-0 with a .984 save percentage and 0.50 goals-against average. He’ll be opposed by Montreal backup Peter Budaj.
“Every game is a good experience for me,” Neuvirth said. “Even last year in the playoffs that gave me a lot [of confidence] and I feel I grew up a little bit from last year and I feel that I can do the job.”
— Line combinations the Capitals used this morning:
The defensive pairings will likely be the same as they were against Boston.
— Tomas Vokoun has now missed two consecutive days of practice since he was forced to leave Thursday’s game against Boston after apparently aggravating a groin muscle strain. While the team has offered no concrete update on Vokoun’s status, it doesn’t appear likely that he will be available anytime soon.
— The Capitals’ probable scratches are Jeff Halpern, who will miss a fourth straight game and ninth out of the past 12 games; Joel Ward, who is missing a fifth straight game since taking a shot off his foot on March 22 in Philadelphia; Jeff Schultz (two straight scratches), Cody Eakin and John Erskine (lower-body), who didn’t take part in the skate.