“It is good,” Samsonov said. “I like it. I know it will be a competition. I like it, to play against a Russian goalie; it is interesting. I want to win for sure today. I will try.”
Samsonov has won his past two starts for the Capitals, with his most recent appearance Dec. 4 in a 3-1 win at the Los Angeles Kings. It was the second game of a back-to-back on the Capitals’ week-long trip to California. Samsonov is tied for second in wins among rookie goaltenders; he is 7-2-1 through 10 games.
Vasilevskiy, in his sixth NHL season, is 13-8-1 through 22 games.
“[I’ve watched] highlights the last few years. I like how he plays,” Samsonov said. “He’s a really good goalie.”
Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said he wants Samsonov to play a little more often, and he has had this game with Tampa Bay (16-11-3) circled for some time. Reirden called the matchup a “good challenge” for Samsonsov, a chance to see him face a top-notch team after the Lightning saw starter Braden Holtby on Nov. 29 in Washington during the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime win. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov had the game-winner.
“We don’t really want him not playing for more than a week at a time,” Reirden said of Samsonov. “When we are in a situation like that, he hurts his game overall and ... we don’t want to overplay Braden. Two difficult games this week. I thought [Holtby] was able to give us a chance against Columbus, and I thought he was excellent against Boston.”
With Samsonov in net Saturday, it is expected Holtby will get the start Monday against Columbus. The previous time Holtby played in Columbus, in December 2018, he pitched a 4-0 shutout. Recording 28 saves, it was his second shutout of that season. Also in that game, Travis Boyd scored his first NHL goal. Boyd is not in the lineup Saturday against the Lightning.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Reirden joked when asked whether Holtby’s shutout at Columbus had anything to do with the decision to start Samsonov on Saturday. “No, you do look at all of those things and that, at different times, different guys play well in different buildings against different opponents or different things like that. But this was a game we had set for Sammy, and looking forward to watching him.”
Capitals expected lines vs Lightning:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) December 14, 2019
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