Capitals coach Adam Oates seriously considered giving goaltender Michal Neuvirth his first start since Feb. 7 Wednesday night against the Flyers, but when Neuvirth came down with an illness he decided to give Braden Holtby his eighth straight start.
“I was actually thinking about giving Holtby a rest tonight for Neuvy,” Oates said before the Caps’ game in Philadelphia. “Obviously, with him being sick it changes that a little bit.”
With Neuvirth under the weather the Capitals recalled Philipp Grubauer from the Hershey Bears on Wednesday. He’ll serve as Holtby’s backup and will be dressing for his first NHL game.
“I haven’t seen Grooby enough, to be honest,” Oates said. “Not that he can’t handle it, but it’s a tough building and we’re on a little bit of a roll and we’ll see if we can keep it going.”
Holtby is 5-2-0 in his last seven games and the Capitals have allowed just 14 goals in that span. He’s coming off his second shutout of the season, a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I’m quite sure he’s capable,” Oates said of Holtby playing in back-to-back games. “It would have been a mental break for him tonight to put Neuvy in.”
With their turnaround the Caps have improved to 7-10-1 and with a win tonight can move within two points of the idle Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets for the Southeast Division lead.
Green back in: Oates said Mike Green was “a little sketchy” at he start of Tuesday’s win over the Hurricanes but improved as the game went on, finishing with 21:54 of ice time.
Oates gave an interesting theory on why the Caps waited until Green’s groin was completely healed before sending him back on the ice for a game.
“Because it wasn’t the playoffs, it’s regular season, when you’re healthy enough to play you play,” he said. “I talked to him before the game and said, ‘If you’re going into the lineup play the whole game.”
Ovi shortage: Alex Ovechkin is coming off his first shot-less game of the season and just the second in two seasons, but Oates said he’s not concerned. Ovechkin set up a power-play goal by Nicklas Backstrom.
“It takes everybody,” Oates said. “That’s the way the league is. Am I concerned? No.”
Gagne’s back: Simon Gagne was re-acquired by the Flyers on Tuesday from the Los Angeles Kings and wore his old No. 12. To make that happen Harry Zolnierczyk surrendered his No. 12 and switched to 37.
Gagne was expected to replace Mike Knuble in the lineup. Knuble, who is now wearing No. 9, had two goals and four assists and was a minus-3 in his first 17 games with the Flyers. Gagne had no goals and five assists in 11 games with the Kings but was a healthy scratch in the last three games. He took a red-eye to Philadelphia and slept during the team’s morning skate.