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“I felt sorry for him a little bit,” Oates said. “They only had 11 shots but they still had seven chances, so the shot totals are a little misleading. … That’s part of the gig, man. It happens. Once again,though, you’re going to get lots of times. Be ready for your time.”

Oates would not say which goalie will start on Thursday night in Tampa but with the Caps now in third place in the Metropolitan Division, just one point ahead of Carolina, it sounds as though he’s leaning toward Grubauer.

“You gotta get wins and you gotta keep the team playing good,” Oates said. “It’s a delicate balance that every team goes through. That’s why you talk about being pros all the time.”

Said Laich: “We love all three guys. … Nobody’s dragging their lips. Michal’s going through a tough time. We know he wants to play but as far as I know he’s been playful and colorful back there. Credit to those guys. They’ve handled it with great professionalism.”