The Washington Times - March 29, 2013, 06:00AM

Michal Neuvirth said he was not worried about the April 3 trade deadline and what could come of it, even as the goaltender has appeared in just three of the Washington Capitals’ past 22 games.

“Obviously I’m not worried about these things if something’s going to happen, if not,” Neuvirth said Thursday. “I’m just practicing hard to be ready.”

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Neuvirth, who just turned 25, is 2-5-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. He has started just twice since allowing two goals on 11 shots to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 7.

In his only three appearances since, the Czech native has allowed seven goals on 87 shots.

Coach Adam Oates made it well-known early in the season that he liked to ride the hot hand in goal. Even when Braden Holtby hasn’t been stellar, this is his net.

“Obviously Holtsy’s been playing great and I understand,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a tough time for me and I’m gonna handle it.”

Neuvirth, who played well in the Czech Extraliga during the NHL lockout, called it a “crazy year.” Over the summer he was quoted by iSport.cz as calling Holtby his “weakest competition yet.” Neuvirth claimed he was misquoted.

Neuvirth has had opportunities to claim the No. 1 goaltending duties in Washington and has filled that role in spurts. Semyon Varlamov, Tomas Vokoun and now Holtby have instead wrested the job away.

Holtby signed a two-year, $3.7 million contract extension last month. At 21, Philipp Grubauer is considered one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey. Grubauer made his NHL debut in Febuary and had his first start with the Caps on March 9 in a loss to the New York Islanders.

Neuvirth has said on previous occasions that he envisions himself as a No. 1 NHL goaltender. That hasn’t changed.

“It’s my goal to be No. 1 and, like you said, if not here maybe somewhere else,” Neuvirth said. “Now I am here and I am focusing on playing for Capitals right now.”