Braden Holtby will get make just his second start in 10 games today when the Capitals butt helmets with the Boston Bruins at 12:30 at Verizon Center.
Holtby made 36 stops in his last start against the San Jose Sharks on March 22 and is 3-1-0 against the Bruins in his career, including 1-1-0 this season, allowing four goals.
“Holts played two good games in Boston and played a good game last time out,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “Jaro [Halak] gets a week to recuperate and we still feel we need both goalies.”
Oates said Holtby’s success against the Bruins – he also knocked them out of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs – is “always in the back of your mind” when making a decision.
Oates said he intends to split his goalies this weekend, but reserves the right to change his mind, depending on how Holtby plays today. The Capitals are in Nashville Sunday night to face the Predators.
Holtby said he felt like his old self last weekend in San Jose, challenging shooters and playing with controlled aggression.
“There were times I was a little rusty,” Holtby said, “but I’ve been feeling a lot better in practice, playing the way that comes naturally, and it came out during that game.”
Holtby said he honestly doesn’t care who gets the majority of starts down the stretch for the Capitals, who have nine games remaining and are locked in a four-way tie for the two wild-card spots.
“No matter who’s involved in it, we need wins,” he said. “At this point of the season there’s no excuse, no matter what’s going on, whether you haven’t played or played a ton. We need wins and we have to find a way to do it.”
In other injury news, Jack Hillen will sit out today’s game with an upper body injury suffered when he collided with teammate Alex Ovechkin on Tuesday night. Hillen will be replaced in the lineup by John Erskine, who has not played since March 5.
“It helps being a bigger guy,” Oates said of Erskine’s physical presence against the Bruins. “But you’ve got to move the puck, you’ve got to skate. We’re at the day and age you’ve got to be able to do everything. You can’t hide players When John is feeling good with his leg I think he’s one of our good defensemen.”
Oates said center Mikhail Grabovski [left ankle sprain] will miss his 22nd of 23 games but will make the team’s trip to Nashville, as will Hillen.
The Caps are 5-0-3 in afternoon games this season.
“Let’s hope it’s six,” Oates quipped.