For the third time this week, the Washington Capitals will turn to goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer, who will start Friday night as they visit the Florida Panthers.
The game will mark Grubauer’s third career start and sixth appearance at the NHL level, all but two of which have come since Dec. 3.
“I’m happy to get another start; this is the league I want to be in,” said Grubauer, 22. “It’s tremendous for me to get some games and get some ice time, even if I go down in a couple days or in a week I don’t know what happens over the course of the next week. I want to make the most out of it and I want to improve.”
Since he was recalled Nov. 30 after Michal Neuvirth was sidelined by an injured right ankle, Grubauer has made two relief appearances and one start stopping 71 of the combined 74 shots he has faced in those outings. He earned his first NHL win in a 4-1 decision over the Rangers on Dec. 8 and appeared in the final 53 minutes and shootout as Washington rallied for a 6-5 win over Tampa Bay on Dec. 10.
This start offers him another chance to leave a lingering impression with Washington brass before he returns to the AHL, which could be before the weekend is over. If Neuvirth makes it through his conditioning stint with the Hershey Bears without any setbacks, he’ll likely be back with the Capitals in time for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia.
Coach Adam Oates said he had planned to give Braden Holtby, who has been pulled from two of his last three starts, a night off in Florida regardless of which other goaltender was on the roster.
Grubauer “came in the other day and did the job for us,” Oates said. “I kind of had planned on playing Neuvy or him anyways because Holts has had a lot of hockey and the way the game worked out. Stick to the plan.”
>> Speaking of Neuvirth, he won’t start for the Bears Friday night in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after all. David Leggio will face the Penguins while Neuvirth is scheduled to start Saturday against Binghamton at home in Hershey. Via Tim Leone of the Patriot News, here’s a video of Neuvirth from this morning.
>> John Erskine (left knee) isn’t quite ready to make his return yet. He’s on the trip with the team but took part in the scratches skate along with Alex Urbom. Oates wouldn’t handicap the chances of Erskine being ready to play Sunday against the Flyers, but did say the veteran defenseman is “very close”.
“Really, kind of a group decision with [head athletic trainer Greg Smith], where is he and how close,” Oates said. “Don’t want to set him back and don’t want to reinjure and how confident is he.”
>> Projected rosters for both teams
Jonathan Huberdeau-Nick Bjugstad-Scottie Upshall
Tomas Kopecky-Marcel Goc-Tomas Fleischmann
Sean Bergenheim-Aleksander Barkov-Jimmy Hayes
Jesse Winchester-Shawn Matthias-Brad Boyes
Brian Campbell-Tom Gilbert
Dmitry Kulikov-Mike Weaver
Dylan Olsen-Erik Gudbranson
Scott Clemmensen will start, Jacob Markstrom will back up.