TORONTO | Michal Neuvirth didn’t know if his performance against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night was enough to earn him a back-to-back start, Saturday night when the Washington Capitals visited the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I can’t answer this question,” Neuvirth said after the win at Verizon Center.
Dale Hunter did on Saturday afternoon, confirming that Neuvirth would be back in net, the first time the 23-year-old goaltender gets the nod on back-to-back days this season.
It’s just his sixth start since getting yanked in Buffalo on Dec. 26. But Neuvirth’s performance of late – 2.20 goals against average and .930 save percentage in his seven appearances in 2012 – made this choice seem obvious.
“I’m sure it’s not easy for him because he’s been out of the lineup. But he’s been playing great and we need that out of him,” defenseman Mike Green said. “It’s mentally tough for him, but he handles himself very well and we need more out of him down the stretch here. We’ve got to win some games and it starts with our goaltending.”
It’s uncertain how the next few days, weeks or months will go with the Caps’ goaltending situation, and Neuvirth on Friday night didn’t want to address whether he could wrestle the starting job away from established No. 1 Tomas Vokoun.
But lately what Neuvirth has done a much better job of than Vokoun is compensate when teammates allow odd-man rushes or make mistakes.
“It’s huge for us because lately it seems to be happening quite frequent,” Green said. “We’ve got to eliminate that, but we know that he’s standing on his head for us, and that makes us play harder for him.”
Hunter confirmed that the Caps would go with the same lineup/scratches as Friday night, which means Keith Aucoin and Jeff Schultz in the lineup and Mike Knuble, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine out. All three are healthy.