Braden Holtby doesn’t want rest. He wants to be in net.
The Washington Capitals’ unquestioned starting goaltender was not in goal for the previous two games as Michal Neuvirth got two in a row. And there’s no silver lining for him.
“I’d rather play. It’s pretty simple,” Holtby said. “I don’t like sitting out, but you take it as it is. As long as we’re winning it doesn’t matter.”
Neuvirth won Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, then again Tuesday at the Montreal Canadiens, stopping 55 of 59 shots. But Holtby gets the nod Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, and the 23-year-old is back where he belongs.
“I just want to go in and perform when I’m asked,” Holtby said. “As far as rest hopefully it might help, but I’d rather play.”
Oates wanted to give Neuvirth a couple of starts to make sure he felt part of the team. The 25-year-old backup has just five appearances in the past 29 games.
“That’s what injuries do and what him getting sick does. It affects that,” Oates said. “He should have had three more starts, maybe four now because he got sick it affected our rhythm. We’re trying to get that rhythm back while winning games.”
Neuvirth said Wednesday he’s feeling good about his game and that he never doubted being a part of the Caps. As for playing so well after such a long layoff, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I work hard in the practices and it paid off in the games,” Neuvirth said.
But now it’s back to work for Holtby, his 12th start in 14 games and 29th of the season. He also appeared in 25 games for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout.
“It’s been a busy schedule, obviously, a lot of time on the road and whatnot,” Holtby said. “But at this point now it feels like a normal season.”
With eight games to go, Holtby will shoulder the load, barring injury. Even though that’s exactly how Holtby likes it, getting a few days off while Neuvirth played could prove beneficial.
“We feel we’re going to need two goalies and I wanted to make sure that [Neuvirth] felt he was a part of this team that you’re not just going to play once every 10 games,” Oates said.
Remember that it took Tomas Vokoun and Neuvirth getting hurt for Holtby to become the playoff starter a year ago. He then put up a 1.95 goals-against average and .935 save percentage as the Caps came within one victory of the Eastern Conference finals.