Sometimes choosing a starting goaltender depends on the matchup. Take one look at Michal Neuvirth's career numbers and recent run against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he seemed a good bet to get the start for the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
But then Wednesday's practice came, and Neuvirth was not on the ice because of a "lower-body injury" that coach Bruce Boudreau said was not related to the "tightness" the 23-year-old experienced in the preseason.
"He might be there [Thursday in Pittsburgh]. We'll see," Boudreau said. "But right now we're taking it cautiously, and he's day to day."
Neuvirth has a 144:43 shutout streak going against the Penguins, and in his career he is 2-0-1 with a .977 save percentage and 0.65 goals-against average when facing them.
Asked about his plan for whether Neuvirth or Tomas Vokoun would start, Boudreau said: "Right now, we're still not changing plans." If Neuvirth skates at Consol Energy Center on Thursday morning, the coach said there's a "good chance" he'll play.
Vokoun, who allowed five goals on 28 shots in his Washington debut Monday, said he's preparing to start whenever he's told and hopes to have a short memory.
"I'm doing the best as I can," he said. "Next game, whenever that game is going to be I play, it's another chance for me to improve."
Boudreau wasn't sure whether Neuvirth's injury would necessitate the recall of another goalie - either Braden Holtby or Dany Sabourin.
But the Capitals know that while Neuvirth being out isn't ideal, Vokoun is more than capable of carrying the load.
"It hurts. It definitely does. He's a huge part of this team. He had a great first game, and he's an unbelievable goalie," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We want to have him back as soon as possible. We're very fortunate we have Voky there, who's just as good and can step in. So it's no problem right now."
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