Caps hire Irbe [Updated]

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The Washington Capitals announced Thursday morning they hired former NHL goalie Arturs Irbe as goaltending coach, replacing Dave Prior.

Irbe played 13 seasons in the NHL, most with the San Jose Sharks and Carolina Hurricanes. He played in the Stanley Cup with Hurricanes in 2002. He had been working as the goalie coach for Riga Dynamo in his native Latvia.

“I have quite a bit of goaltending experience behind [me] as a goaltender, to some extent limited coaching experience, but I take it as a bonus that I had several goaltending coaches from different schools – from Europe, from North America, guys who have played the game, guys who have not played the game,” Irbe said.

Prior resigned for family reasons. He was the Caps’ goalies coach for 12 seasons, and during his tenure Olie Kolzig won the Vezina Trophy in 1999-2000. General manager George McPhee said Prior spent 230 nights away from home last year and owed his wife a better life, whic meant leaving the Caps.

Enter Irbe, who starred for the Hurricanes in the 2002 playoffs, even beating current Caps goalie Jose Theodore along the way. Irbe played against Theodore, and his connection to Semyon Varlamov cannot be overlooked either, as Irbe can speak Russian.

“It will be easier to communicate,” Irbe said. “I should be able to communicate with him in any language - whichever he prefers. I could be, also, I hope, an asset to make it easier —  that transition.”

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