Rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer will start for the third time in the last four games when the Capitals face the Philadelphia Flyers today at VerizonCenter.
Why start Grubauer over Braden Holtby, who allowed three goals on eights in his last appearance Tuesday night?
“Because he’s played good the last couple games,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “He had a chance to get a little rest so we give him another shot tonight.”
Asked if there is something extra that Grubauer [2-0-1, 1.52 GAA, .957 save percentage] gives the Capitals, Oates said, “Confidence. Obviously, a team is supposed to have confidence with every one of your guys. Just like everybody, you have highs and lows and right now he’s on a little high and we’re going to play him.”
Veteran defenseman John Erskine will also return to the lineup after missing the previous 21 games with pain and swelling in his left knee. To make room for Erskine, the Caps placed Brooks Laich on long-term injure reserve, believed to be retroactive to Nov. 27. They also sent rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Hershey Bears.
Rookie Michael Latta was also recalled by the Caps and is expected to center a fourth line with Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson.
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Erskine is expected to be paired with Steve Oleksy. In seven games this season Erskine, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, has one assist and 12 penalty minutes.
“I just want him to play,” Oates said. “We’ve missed him. We need his minutes, his size. We need good decisions with the puck. It’s been a long time, so we’re not expecting too much. But he’s a veteran and coincidentally, it comes on a night we’re playing Philly, so obviously his size is important. But we need him to play good hockey.”
Much like his players said on Saturday, Oates said he expects no carryover from the Capitals’ last meeting against the Flyers, a 7-0 drubbing in Philadelphia on Nov. 1.
“It’s a while ago,” Oates said, “and both teams need the points. I expect that to be the first priority for both teams.”
Neuvy update: Goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 33 stops in a 7-4 victory for the Hershey Bears Saturday night. “I watched his interview afterwards,” Oates said. “He said he felt pretty good in the second half of the game and quite honestly it was a conditioning stint.”