Adam Oates wants to keep things cruising along without many changes for the Washington Capitals, but backup Michal Neuvirth starts in goal Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators. It’s just Neuvirth’s fifth start in 36 games.
Oates started Neuvirth in back-to-back games earlier this month to ensure the 25-year-old still felt like a part of the team, even though Braden Holtby has shouldered the load and will do so in the playoffs.
“I still feel that way, yeah,” Oates said. “Anything can happen right? And you have to prepare for that. We finally put ourselves in a position where we can. I expect us to have a great game and him have a great game.”
Neuvirth goes into the game 4-5-1 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. Holtby is 22-12-1 with a 2.61 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Beyond the nets, the Caps are going with the same lineup they’ve used for much of this past stretch. That means Wojtek Wolski, Jeff Schultz and Tom Poti are healthy scratches.
Oates said he wouldn’t balance out the minutes any differently even though the Caps already clinched the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“Conditioning is an important thing,” he said. “You don’t want to let guys get out of their normal rhythm at all.”
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat - Mike Ribeiro - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Eric Fehr
Aaron Volpatti - Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
John Erskine - John Carlson
Jack Hillen - Steve Oleksy