The Washington Times - March 20, 2011, 11:31PM

The Capitals’ goalie carousel is down to two this Monday thanks to Braden Holtby’s demotion. Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov will get every chance to fight it out for the starting job when the playoffs open.

But for everyone who thinks this is Neuvirth’s job to lose, at least one person disagrees.

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“No,” Neuvirth said. “Varly was the starting goalie for the last couple years, but I wanna take his job from him and we still have nine games left and anything can happen.”

Thirty-three saves and his fourth shutout of the season wasn’t enough to give Neuvirth the “lead,” according to coach Bruce Boudreau.

“There’s no lead. This isn’t a race,” he said Saturday. “He played a great game just like Holtsy was playing great and Varly was playing great before he got hurt. We’ll just go with who we think is the hottest goalie at the time when the time is needed.”

Here’s the quick tale of the tape: Neuvirth is 23-11-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Varlamov is 10-8-4 with a 2.27 GAA and .923 save percentage.

The Russian netminder who hasn’t played since Feb. 20 because of a lower-body injury will get a chance to play this week, Boudreau said. But has the coach decided which game or games?

“In my head I have,” he said.

When another reporter asked about the team’s 2-1 record on the first half of the road trip, Boudreau thought he was asking about Neuvirth and Varlamov splitting the next three games – at Philadelphia Tuesday, at Ottawa Friday and at Montreal Saturday – two for one and one for the other.

“Two and one is very likely – we only got three games and if we wanna get both of ’em in, somebody’s gonna play two, somebody’s gonna play one,” Boudreau said. “Who knows – it could be 3 and 0.”

But does that mean Varlamov could start all three? It appears unlikely, given Neuvirth’s masterful performance at the Devils and the fact that Varlamov might not yet be 100 percent. Still, he’ll see some action – so the competition is on. Just don’t call it a race.