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Michal Neuvirth to make first appearance in seven weeks

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Michal Neuvirth will make his first start in goal in exactly seven weeks on Friday when the Washington Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center.

Neuvirth, who has sat out the last 20 games, last played Nov. 22 in a 3-2 home loss to the Montreal Canadiens. He was set to start a week later in a home game also against the Canadiens, but stepped on a puck in pregame warm-ups and sprained his right ankle.

“It’s been a long time,” coach Adam Oates said before the game. “Hopefully he has a good game. He’s had a lot of shots, a lot of practice time. Just looking for a good game.”

Neuvirth, who has played in seven games this season, has a 2-3-1 record, a 2.83 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. He missed six games while he was recovering from the injury, missed three more while on a conditioning assignment with the Hershey Bears and then sat the next nine behind Braden Holtby and rookie Philipp Grubauer, who has earned six of the last seven starts.

The inactivity led Neuvirth’s agent to go public with a trade demand on Dec. 29, but Neuvirth, who is making $2.5 million this season after agreeing to a contract extension in the spring, was a healthy scratch for the following four games as well.

Neuvirth warmed up at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Friday morning before the game. Merely getting loose, though, is not an adequate substitute for sitting out over a month and a half.

“Been a long time for a game, and then the speed of it – you can only simulate so much in practice,” Oates said.

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