Goaltender Michal Neivirth will make his second straight start against the Detroit Red Wings today, but defenseman Mike Green [head injury] and center Brooks Laich [groin tightness] will not be in the lineup for today's 12:30 p.m. puck drop at Verizon Center [NBC].
Tyson Strachan and Casey Wellman will take their places in the lineup, with Aaron Volpatti returning to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past four games.
Green has not played since the first period of Thursday night’s 5-2 loss in Columbus, when his head was driven into the glass by Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner. Laich took just two shifts in the third period of Friday night’s 4-3 shootout loss in Detroit after his groin tightened up. This marks the 15th game Laich is missing with groin issues this season. He's missed 54 of the Capitals' last 114 games.
Oates said it was an easy decision to give Neuvirth the start after seeing him turn aside 42 shots in Friday night’s loss in Detroit. It will be his first back-to-back starts of the season.
“He played really good, plenty of rest,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “Hopefully he can get on a roll.”
Neuvirth said he’s hoping to build off Friday night’s strong performance and make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m not happy with the result, but I did a good job and gave us a chance to win the hockey game,” Neuvirth said. “It’s nice to see game action, but playing once in a week is not so easy.
“We’re just going to go game by game and who’s playing good will start. I had a good game [Friday] and a good skate [Saturday]. I’m ready.”
Center Mikhail Grabovski will miss his fifth straight game with a left foot/ankle injury. With four games remaining before the Olympic break, it’s possible Grabovski will not return to the lineup until Feb. 27 when the Capitals return to action following the Olympics
That could give Wellman an extended look. In five games for the Caps this season Wellman, 26, already has two goals and is a plus-2.
“At the end of the day you have to throw guys out there and hopefully they can do the job. Casey’s a great example,” Oates said. “He’s come up, given us some good games, good minutes, good speed, a couple good goals for us. Hopefully, that gives him the confidence to keep progressing and eat up some minutes, which is great.”
Oates said the Capitals need to tighten up their play against the Red Wings if they hope to tie them in Eastern Conference standings. The Red Wings have 59 points. The Caps have 57.
“One thing we have to do differently is re-groups,” Oates said. “They’re a great puck control team, but there’s times you have the puck where they sit back into a 1-2-2 and we need to execute there. If we don’t, we’re giving them the puck too many times and that’s a bad recipe.”
Here’s a quick look at the Caps’ projected lineup:
Marty Erat – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson – Jay Beagle – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Casey Wellman – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Tyson Strachan
John Erskine – Connor Carrick
Michal Neuvirth [starter] – Braden Holtby