Assuming Gary Bettman and Don Fehr are able to settle the NHL labor dispute before Bettman’s deadline of Jan 11 –- yes, that gives them exactly one week -- the Capitals will be back on the ice practicing at Kettler in just eight days.
Half of the Capitals have been playing professional hockey during the lockout, including goaltenders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuivirth.
“Obviously, they’re going to be in game shape, so that has to be a good thing,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “I don’t think there’s any perfect formula, but the fact both of those guys have been playing is good.”
Just as importantly, both goalies are playing well and are getting some heat from the Caps’ other goaltending prospect, Philipp Grubauer.
On Wednesday, Holtby, 23, was named the American Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Month for December.
In 10 December appearances for the Bears, Holtby posted a 1.69 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage and three shutouts.
Holtby allowed one goal or fewer in six of his 10 starts in December (5-4-1). He shut out Norfolk on Dec. 19, making 35 saves in a 4-0 victory, and after turning aside 29 shots in a 1-0 loss to Springfield on Dec. 22, he posted his third shutout in a five-game span – and third on three consecutive Wednesday nights – by registering 33 saves in a 2-0 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Dec. 26.
Overall, Holtby is 12-10-1 for the Bears and ranks sixth in the AHL with a 2.15 GAA, third with a .932 save percentage and tied for second with four shutouts.
Neuvirth, 24, has played in 23 games for Sparta Praha of the Czech League. He is 11-13-0 with a 2.46 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
Oates already has said he will begin the season with Holtby as his starting goaltender.
Meanwhile, Grubauer, 21, has excelled with the Reading Royals of the ECHL. In 24 appearances Grubauer has a 18-4-1 record and owns the fourth-best goals-against average in the league at 2.28, along with a ,912 save percentage.
The second-year pro from Rosenheim, Germany, was selected to represent the Royals in the 2013 ECHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 23 in Loveland, Colo.