Adam Oates going back to Braden Holtby vs. Panthers

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It’s not easy for Adam Oates to pick a goalie right now, and it’s not a good problem. Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth have both struggled of late for the Washington Capitals.

It will be Holtby in net Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, Oates said Friday. Holtby allowed three goals on his first 11 shots in relief of Neuvirth in Thursday night’s 5-2 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It’s tough because I really believe we’re a team,” Oates said. “You can’t blame it on one person. I don’t.”

General manager George McPhee, in addition to penalties, said the team’s goaltending needs to be better.

“They’re part of the team. They do, too,” Oates said. “And they got to go through the same process. They’re in a slump; they got to get out of it like a lot of us.”

Oates said he discusses goaltending decisions with his entire coaching staff. Ultimately it’s his call.

Neuvirth allowed two goals on 11 shots vs. Pittsburgh.

“Neuvy makes a great save in the first period on [Matt] Cooke, right? I think he would want the second goal back,” Oates said. “And unfortunately timely right now for our team, the first goal against Toronto and that goal [Thursday] night hurts. But that’s something the team has to get through. We have to help him, and he has to help us at times. But it’s still the team.”

Oates wasn’t a goaltender, so he can’t get into the minds of Holtby and Neuvirth in the same way. But he pointed out that he wasn’t a defenseman, either.

“I also played the game for a long time; I played with Olie [Kolzig] for a long time. I just coached Marty Brodeur for two years,” he said. “They go in slumps, too, like everybody else. It’s just it’s more magnified at times.”

Some other roster notes:

Expect Mathieu Perreault to be back in the lineup, centering the third line with Joel Ward and Eric Fehr. It appears that either Jason Chimera or Joey Crabb will be the healthy scratch forward.

“You know what? He’s had a few days to watch,” Oates said. “We need him to get in the lineup and to execute the system and play. It’s not about production; it’s about playing correctly.”

Defenseman John Erskine is set to return after a three-game suspension. It’s unclear whose spot he’ll be taking.

Defenseman Tom Poti, who missed the Penguins game with an upper-body injury from being boarded by Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov on Tuesday. His status for Florida is uncertain.

Anticipated lines:

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Wojtek Wolski - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin

Joel Ward - Mathieu Perreault - Eric Fehr

Matt Hendricks / Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb

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