When Tomas Vokoun aggravated a groin injury last week, Michal Neuvirth skated quickly to the net. He knew it was his, and the Washington Capitals will likely roll with the 24-year-old in the final home stretch this season.
Neuvirth will start Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, coach Dale Hunter confirmed, just adding to what Brooks Laich said last week that “it’s Michal’s show.” And Neuvirth is stoic and confident.
“You’re just focusing on tomorrow’s game,” he said. “We need two points and we will do whatever it takes to get the two points tomorrow.”
Hunter sounded like it wasn’t even a hard choice.
“Neuvy’s give us good games. You seen the last game here against Montreal. He give us the win. It was him. And [in Tampa] he made big saves in the third period to give us a chance to keep it so that we could tie it up. He deserves it, he’s been playing well,” Hunter said. “He’s deserving it. He’s on his game right now and perfect timing for the Caps.”
Neuvirth, who has started the past two games and split them, feels good about his game right now, despite losing Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I talked to [goaltending coach Dave Prior] and he was happy with the way I’m playing right now,” Neuvirth said. “We did some stuff on the ice right after practice. I had good practice and I’m feeling good. We need every guy to step up tomorrow and be ready.”
Backup Braden Holtby knows and accepts his role in this goaltending carousel, behind Neuvirth.
“I’m going to play with everything I have and make sure I’m prepared to go. If I don’t get asked, I’m going to do the best to be the best teammate and give as much support to Neuvy as I can,” Holtby said. “There’s times in a guy’s playing career that you have to maybe step down in order for the betterment of the team. Right now the way it’s going, we need Neuvy to win. I’m totally fine with that, if I don’t get to play, as long as we win.”
Neuvirth’s experience as the No. 1 goalie last season admittedly helped. Teammates didn’t really need that confirmation.
“He’s just a great goalie, anyway. I think experience helps any player,” defenseman Mike Green said. “Him definitely playing in a couple series is going to help him this year.”
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday night that it sounded like ex-Caps goalie Jose Theodore would be getting the start for the Panthers.