Oates faced with another tough choice in goal

Oates faced with another tough choice in goal
January 11, 2014, 4:00 pm
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The Capitals have won two straight games with two different goaltenders. Will they go for the trifecta on Sunday by starting Braden Holtby against the Buffalo Sabres [3 p.m. CSN]?

“Tomorrow I’ll know,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said.

It’s not an easy decision. Rookie netminder Philipp Grubauer won Friday night’s game in Tampa, allowing three goals on 36 shots in a 4-3 win.

Michal Neuvirth won his first game since Nov. 2 on Saturday night against Toronto, limiting the Maple Leafs to two goals on 34 shots.

Does Oates treat this like a pitching rotation and give Holtby a start against the Sabres, who own the NHL’s worst record?

“It makes it very difficult,” Oates said. “Grubi obviously has had some good starts consecutively. Neuvy didn’t get a chance to play for a while and came in last night and played great. But it makes for a difficult decision.”

In what could have been a showcase game for NHL teams interested in acquiring a goalie, Neuvirth was sharp the entire night against the Leafs, his only real blemish a shortside shot by Phil Kessel that broke the stick blade of Karl Alzner off the release.

“Obviously, I’m feeling really good about myself right now,” said Neuvirth, who improved to 3-3-1 with a 2.72 GAA and .916 save percentage. “I had a good practice today. It’s just another day. Yesterday’s game is history and I have to be good.”

Neuvirth thought it might take a little time for him to adjust to the speed of a real NHL game, but said that was not the case on Friday night. He said that after seen weeks on the sidelines, it’s nice to be a contributing part of the Capitals, even if he’s not sure what his future holds.

“You want to be part of it,” he said. “You want to keep playing, but the team always comes first and you’ve got to wait for you opportunity. I’m just going to go day-by-day and whenever I get another chance I need to be ready.”

The same can be said for Grubauer, who watched Friday night’s game from the press box, and Holtby, who has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts.

Oates said he does not see much of a difference between a goalie dressing as a backup or being a healthy scratch and does not want his three goalies devoting much attention to that.

“I think they all want to start, so even sitting on the bench, most guys don’t want to do that. They’re young guys and they’re going to get tons of chances. I know at the moment they don’t want to hear that, but they’re gonna.”

As for the possibility of Holtby being a healthy scratch on Sunday, Oates said it could happen.

“I wouldn’t call it a healthy scratch,” he said. “That’s almost an unfair terms because we feel very confident with him as well. It’s not punishment. We have three.”