In an effort to stop the bleeding of a three-game losing streak, Capitals coach Adam Oates will give backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth his first start since Feb.7 when the Capitals visit the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night in Raleigh.
“We need a good start,” Oates said. “The last couple starts have been tough on Braden. This gives him a chance to regroup.”
In a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday Holtby allowed a first-period goal by Derek Stepan go off the back of his right skate, and in Tuesday night’s 4-0 loss to Hurricanes he allowed Joe Corvo to score from the goal line with a shot off the back of his head.
Neuvirth last played for the Caps on Sunday when he came in to relieve Holtby in that loss to the Rangers allowing one goal on 11 shots.
His last start came 15 games ago in Pittsburgh when he allowed two goals on 11 shots and was replaced by Holtby in a 5-2 loss to the Penguins.
“It’s been a long time since I started,” Neuvirth said. “I’ve been good in practice but practice is not a game.”
Neuvirth said he has tried to “stay positive, work had and wait for my chance” during the past six weeks, a week of which was spent fighting the flu. He was slated to get the start on Long Island on Saturday but callup Philipp Grubauer got the call instead.
“But now I’m 100 percent,” he said.
Neuvirth is 1-4-1 this season with a 2.98 GAA and .890 save percentage. In six career starts against the Hurricnaes he is 3-1-1 with a 2.66 GAA, .913 save percentage and one shutout.
Oates said he has not spoken much with Neuvirth in recent weeks, leaving that up to goalie coach Dave Prior.
“I talk to Dave all the time,” Neuvirth said. “He’s a great goalie coach and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Holtby has started 14 of the Capitals’ last 15 games, going 8-3-0 before losing his last two starts.
“Say what you want, we’ve lost three in a row,” Holtby said. “We need to be better, I need to be better, to turn this thing around.”