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Back from the World Cup, Braden Holtby seeks immediate game action

Braden Holtby and Corey Crawaford celebrate their 4-1 victory over Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey tournament last month. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As the Washington Capitals who played in last month’s World Cup of Hockey steadily joined training camp, they recounted their experiences from the tournament in Toronto. After a string of games featuring elite competition, several players said they felt like they were in “game shape” already, even though the start of the regular season is still weeks away. How does goaltender Braden Holtby feel after his time with eventual champion Team Canada?

“Well, they were playing,” Holtby said. “That changes it a little bit. Definitely not game shape yet for me.”

Despite being the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Holtby was Canada’s No. 3 goaltender, behind Montreal’s Carey Price and Chicago’s Corey Crawford. His time on the ice for the past month was limited to playing half a preseason game.

That’s why two days after Canada won the World Cup over Team Europe, Holtby was back at Kettler Capitals IcePlex, preparing to play in an exhibition game against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

“I wanted to get back as soon as I could, get on the ice and make sure I use all of the time I can to make up for the days at camp,” Holtby said. “There’s a lot to be said at camp about getting a team together, and creating a chemistry, so I wanted to get back and make sure I’m a part of that.”

Holtby said that once the tournament started, he was able to get some extra work in practice. Before he left for the World Cup, he said Price would be “the smart choice” to be Canada’s top goalie because of his impressive international resume, so Holtby wasn’t surprised by the lack of playing time.

“I knew what it was going to be going in,” Holtby said. “Everyone seemed pretty shocked when I said it. I mean, it was pretty evident. You look at a situation, and if you look at it with a level head, you can see what it is. I was prepared for that role to play on that team.”

Said Coach Barry Trotz, who was an assistant for Team Canada: “Would I have liked Holts to play? Absolutely. I still think it was a tremendous experience for him, and he’s going to be better for it. … We’re going to get him right back in the saddle. There’ll probably be a little bit of rust, but we’ll get the rust off. I’m not worried.”

Holtby’s plan now is to get in as much game action as he can and “kind of cram it all in.” He said he doesn’t feel like he’s behind or has missed much at Washington’s training camp in the first week. Philipp Grubauer, who was the backup goalie for Team Europe, had the day off on Saturday and will be back at training camp on Sunday.

“Still been on the ice and doing some drills, so it’s not starting at square one, but the game action is key,” Holtby said. “You can practice all you want, but once you get into a game, it’s completely different, just getting the stamina back up, the mental stamina.

“Still got enough games to make sure we’re ready.”