Michal Neuvirth is still sick and is not making the trip with the Washington Capitals to Uniondale, N.Y., to face the New York Islanders. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer, recalled from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Thursday, will go and could make his first NHL start Saturday afternoon.
“Maybe,” Grubauer said.
Coach Adam Oates said “we’re still deciding.” He added there’s a good chance Grubauer starts one of the Caps’ two games, either at the Islanders or Sunday afternoon back at Verizon Center against the New York Rangers.
In 11 consecutive starts, Braden Holtby is 8-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. He said Thursday he’s not tired after playing 11 in a row.
“That’s our job,” Holtby said. “If we’re getting tired physically we shouldn’t be here.”
Oates said he’d consider starting Holtby in both games, but it’s much more likely that Grubauer gets one of them. Asked about potentially getting his first NHL start Saturday, the 21-year-old said: “It would be awesome.”
Grubauer was impressive in his Caps debut Feb. 27 at the Philadelphia Flyers, stopping all 14 shots he faced in relief of Holtby. Oates said he talked to goaltending coach Dave Prior and the two believe Grubauer is ready to make a start.
“You just try to decide,” Oates said. “Holts is definitely going to play one of the two on the weekend; [it’s just a matter of] which one, and we’re just trying to figure out rest and we’re just thinking about it.”
Grubauer practiced Friday as Neuvirth was not “100 percent,” according to Oates. It’s uncertain when the 24-year-old Czech will play again; his last appearance was Feb. 7 at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That was also the most recent game for forward Marcus Johansson, who has missed the past 11 while trying to come back from a concussion. Johansson wore a green, third-line jersey at practice Friday. He’s on the trip to Long Island.
“I talked to him as we were skating around, I said, ‘You tell me how you feel, conditioning-wise if I need you tomorrow, if somebody gets sick can you play?’ And he said ‘yeah,” Oates said.
Johansson was coy about how soon he might be able to play.
“I feel better and better too and push myself a little more,” he said. “It’s definitely going the right way.”
Left wing Jason Chimera practiced in his usual spot on the third line the day after taking a blindside hit to the head from Florida Panthers defenseman Tyson Strachan.
Chimera had to be checked out Thursday night by trainer Greg Smith as part of the NHL’s concussion protocol; he took nine shifts the rest of the game.
“I talked to him this morning, he’s a little sore in spots but he’s fine,” Oates said.
Chimera declined to speak with reporters about any topic Friday. Strachan did not have a disciplinary hearing with the league.
“I have no say in the matter,” Oates said. “I thought it was a little late, but I don’t think he left his feet or anything.”
Here’s a look at the likely lines and pairings for Saturday’s game at the Islanders:
Matt Hendricks – Mike Ribeiro – Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Joel Ward (Marcus Johansson)
Wojtek Wolski – Mathieu Perreault – Joey Crabb (Aaron Volpatti)
Karl Alzner – Tomas Kundratek
John Erskine – John Carlson
Tom Poti OR Jeff Schultz – Steve Oleksy