News and notes as the Edmonton Oilers [1-3-1] visit the Capitals [1-4-0] tonight at Verizon Center [6:30 p.m., CSN]:
Needing stops: Through five games, Braden Holtby [0-3-0, 4.04 GAA, .873] and Michal Neuvirth [1-1-0, 3.32, .893] have combined for the NHL’s fourth-worst goals-against average [3.93]. Only the Florida Panthers [4.00], Edmonton Oilers [4.88] and New York Rangers [5.00].
“You can’t replace that feeling, the confidence players have knowing that if they make a mistake another guy’s got their back,” Caps coach Adam Oates said Tuesday as he prepared the Caps to face the Oilers. “Just like some guys haven’t scored yet, some pucks haven’t been stopped yet.”
Holtby has been working with goaltending coach Olie Klzig on subtle changes to his game that he hopes will result in better recovery during scrambles.
“It’s going to be a full year-long thing,” Holtby said of the adjustments he’s making. “I don’t want to stop working on it at any point. I try to use practice to my benefit but you’re never done.”
Rockin’ The Red: The Capitals have lost two of their first three at VerizonCenter, where they were 15-8-1 last season. They are in the midst of their longest homestand of the season, a five-game set that continues with games against the Rangers on Wednesday and Blue Jackets on Saturday.
“That's one of the first things we talked about is making sure that we take advantage of this and try to put ourselves in a good position,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We haven't really done that so far. The fact that we can still bring it to .500 after this would be great going on a tough road trip, so it's important. We want to have VerizonCenter be a really tough building to play in and it's got to start at some point and hopefully it starts with the next one."
Following Saturday night’s game against Columbus the Caps hit the road for five straight games – Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary Vancouver and Philadelphia.
Speed demons: The Oilers have not made the playoffs since losing to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. That means a lot of high draft picks, including LW Taylor Hall [1st overall, 2010], C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins [1st overall, 2011] and RW Nail Yakupov [1st overall, 2012].
Hall has one goal and three assists in his past four games. Yakupov is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight.
“People know their skills,” Holtby said. “They have a lot of quick guys with quick hands. That’s what they base their game around and we’ll be ready for that in the defensive zone.”
Injury update: Caps defenseman John Erskine skated for the first time since suffering what the team called an upper body injury in Thursday night’s loss to Carolina. He said he was hoping to play tonight but instead is shooting for Wednesday night against the Rangers.
“I haven’t skated in two full days,” he said. “I need to get my legs under me. I felt better. Maybe another day of rest will make the difference. You’ve got to get the rust off.”
Capitals’ Projected Lineup
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich - Mikhail Grabovski -Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Marty Erat - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
Alex Urbom - John Carlson
Nate Schmidt - Steve Oleksy
Braden Holtby [starter] – Michal Neuvirth
Scratches: LW Aaron Volpatti, D John Erskine [upper body, day-to-day], D Jack Hillen [fractured tibial plateau, 4-6 months]
Oilers’ Projected Lineup
Taylor Hall -Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth – Mark Arcobello –Jordan Eberle
Jesse Joensuu – Boyd Gordon – David Perron
Luke Gazdic – Will Acton –Mike Brown
Andrew Ference – Nick Schultz
Anton Belov – Justin Schultz
Ladislav Smid – Jeff Petry
Jason LaBarbera [starter] – Devan Dubnyk
Scratches: RW Nail Yakupov, D Phillip Larsen, C Sam Gagne [broken jaw], LW Steve McIntyre [knee], D Corey Potter [back].