Oates weighing options heading into Pittsburgh

Oates weighing options heading into Pittsburgh
January 14, 2014, 11:15 pm
Share This Post

Oates: San Jose a very good, veteran team

Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates watches from the bench against the Boston Bruins in the second period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 4-3 in overtime.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

For 65 minutes, Philipp Grubauer matched Antti Niemi save for save.

But was his 28-save performance in the Capitals’ 2-1 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night enough to get him another start in Pittsburgh Wednesday against the Penguins?

“My first answer would be no, because it was still an intense game,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “But Olie and I will go over it on the flight.”

Oates said before the game that he was leaning toward starting Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby against the Penguins. Neuvirth seems like the more likely candidate since he’s never lost to the Pens in regulation [2-0-2] during the regular season and Holtby has lost all four times he’s faced them in his career.

[RELATED: Will Oates split his goalies against the Pens?]

Oates said Grubauer played “solid” in Tuesday night’s shootout loss but also credited the way the Caps played in front of him, allowing 29 shots to the NHL’s highest-shooting team.

“There were not a lot of chances at all,” Oates said. “He did his job.”

The Capitals came out strong in the first half of the first period, but allowed the Sharks to steal the momentum with nine straight shots at the end of the period, concluding with Tyler Kennedy’s fourth goal of the season on a deflection.

During the first intermission Oates decided to move Brooks Laich off a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer and onto a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Alex Ovechkin. Fehr took Laich’s spot with Backstrom and Brouwer and both lines seemed to generate more offense over the next 40 minutes.

Fehr finished with four shots and had another ring off the post in overtime.

The overtime period ended with tempers flaring. Capitals left wing Jason Chimera got away with a punch to the face of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Vlasic got away with covering his hand over the puck to get a whistle.

Vlasic was angry that he did not get a call on the play and was slapped with a 10-minute misconduct.

“I don’t know, I presume he mouthed off,” Oates said, “because he and Chimmer were battling pretty hard. I actually thought there was a call there for hand on the puck, but maybe he was hurt and that’s why they didn’t give him a penalty.”

Oates walked away from the loss saying he “appreciated” the way both teams played and his players agreed.

“It’s not a real pat on the back to say we hung in there with the San Jose Sharks,” said Laich, who managed two shots but flubbed a great chance on a pass from Karl Alzner. “We expect a lot of ourselves. We think we’re an elite team, too. We’re certainly not sitting here patting ourselves on the backs. We want more.”

They’ll get that chance in Pittsburgh against a Penguins team that hasn’t played since Saturday.