For the first time this season, Michal Neuvirth will start on consecutive days. After a 30-save performance in a win against Montreal on Friday night, the 23-year-old netminder will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in a critical game for the Capitals as they push toward the postseason.
Since New Year’s, Neuvirth has made seven appearances (five starts), stopping 187 of the 201 shots he’s faced for a .930 save percentage and 2.20 goals against average. He also has the confidence of his teammates, even if he’s seeing infrequent action this season.
“I’m sure it’s mentally tough for him [to not play consistently] but he handles himself very well,” defenseman Mike Green said of Neuvirth. “We need more out of him down the stretch here we’ve got to win some games and it starts with our goaltending.”
After he backstopped the Capitals to a 4-1 win over the Canadiens, Neuvirth dodged questions about whether he would be able to snatch the starting job away from veteran Tomas Vokoun down the stretch. If he can continue to play well, perhaps there’s more of an opportunity for Neuvirth to do so than previously imagined.
Considering that in recent games the Capitals have allowed more odd-man rushes than what has been the norm under Coach Dale Hunter, having Neuvirth playing well is a necessity.
“It’s huge for us lately. [Odd-man rushes] seems to be happening quite frequent and we’ve got to eliminate that,” Green said. “But we know that he’s stood on his head for us and that makes us play harder for him.”
In other lineup news, Hunter confirmed that Mike Knuble, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine will be healthy scratches again tonight against Toronto. Both Knuble and Hamrlik have been increasingly mentioned in trade rumors as the NHL’s trade deadline at 3 p.m. Monday nears.