PHILADELPHIA | Michal Neuvirth took a puck to the mask in Saturday’s morning skate in Buffalo, and he wasn’t feeling well enough Sunday to play at the Philadelphia Flyers. So the Washington Capitals will start Braden Holtby and recalled Philipp Grubauer to serve as the backup.
Neuvirth was scheduled to start the second half of this back-to-back, coach Adam Oates said. But the Caps don’t want to take any chances in case Neuvirth has a concussion.
“We’re going to take precautions,” Oates said Sunday morning. “He doesn’t feel great. The medical guys will handle what we’re supposed to do.”
Oates referenced Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby taking a puck to the mouth Saturday afternoon and what coach Dan Bylsma said about considering the kind of injury that can result. After Neuvirth’s incident Saturday, the Caps decided to keep him out of harm’s way.
“[Neuvirth] is probably OK, but if something bad happens we don’t want to put him in the net if he’s not a hundred percent,” Oates said.
Oates called it a “bad break” because this was another chance for Neuvirth to play. A simlar thing happened Feb. 27, when Neuvirth was sick and Holtby got shelled in a loss at the Flyers.
This is Holtby’s eighth straight start.
“It’s a little hard obviously,” Oates said. “I would say that he probably won’t say it, but for him maybe mentally he was ready for rest and all of a sudden he’s got to flip the switch and get back to prepare, which everybody goes through it in their life. He’ll handle it but psych-wise it can be a little difficult.”
Oates said Neuvirth would accompany the team to Raleigh, N.C., and that Grabauer would not. Grabauer was recalled using a goaltender roster exemption.
With a day before the Caps face the Carolina Hurricanes, the team could find room for Grubauer on the active roster if Neuvirth is unable to back-up again.
Neuvirth has played in just three of the Caps’ past 22 games and started just two. Illness played a major role in his prior absences.