Michal Neuvirth rewarded for shutout with start against Avalanche on Saturday

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DENVER — Tomas Vokoun was understandably frustrated about his game earlier this week following a rough performance — four goals on 21 shots — against the Philadelphia Flyers. The veteran Washington Capitals goaltender said he knows himself pretty well — and that getting right back between the pipes to atone for his mistakes might not be the best thing.

“Sometimes the best thing is to get a break and work in the practice,” Vokoun said. “There’s plenty games left, and I’m not worried about how many games I’m going to play. I want to feel good and help this team win. For me, that’s the most important thing.”

Winning right now might depend on letting Michal Neuvirth take the reins for a little bit. The 23-year-old shut out the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night and appears to be gaining confidence despite some early-season struggles. He’ll get the nod Saturday night on the road against the struggling Colorado Avalanche (one win in their last five games), not a stunner after his 26-save performance at MTS Centre.

“You’ve got to roll with him,” said Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild. “If I’m seeing it, I’m sure the goalie coaches are saying something to Dale Hunter like, ‘That was a really good game, lets give him a run here.’ “

A run that Goldman argues should last longer than two straight starts — no matter how Neuvirth performs in Denver. He said it’s a matter of getting opportunities to build up confidence and not getting replaced for giving up a bad goal or two.

“Even if they lose, you go right back to him. You have to,” Goldman said. “You can’t derail what already started. The only way you can generate a goalie that takes the reins and runs with it is giving him a string of starts.”

Neuvirth last started back-to-back games Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, a win over the Ottawa Senators and a loss to the Florida Panthers. He has yet to start three games in a row this season. Hunter has said he likes to ride the hot hand in goal, but it remains to be seen how he’ll handle this situation if Neuvirth struggles against the Avalanche.

“The only way a goalie can gain confidence is if he’s playing,” Goldman said. “We all know that Tomas Vokoun doesn’t have confidence right now. And you have one goalie who’s confidence is surging.”

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