- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2012

For most of the season, Washington Capitals players expressed nothing but confidence in both goaltenders, Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. When Braden Holtby got called up, there was a belief in all three goaltenders.

Is that the limit? With Vokoun already out with a groin injury, Neuvirth going down Thursday night was another blow to the Caps’ goaltending department.

“It’s a crappy time to get injured. It’s very unfortunate. I don’t think it’s that tough, unless Holtsy gets injured,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Then we’re really going to be looking at things a little bit differently.”

That option seems to be one freak injury away at this point, as the Capitals turn to Holtby for Saturday’s regular-season finale at the New York Rangers and into the playoffs. Journeyman Dany Sabourin is next in line and could be recalled from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League as early as Saturday.

As of early Friday afternoon, coach Dale Hunter did not have an update on Neuvirth, who was set to see a doctor about his apparent left leg injury. Barring something miraculous, Sabourin will back up Holtby at Madison Square Garden.

Sabourin, 31, had been Holtby’s backup with Hershey for much of the season and hasn’t played in an NHL game since January 10, 2009. Sabourin and Brandon Anderson, who’s currently playing in junior, are the only healthy goalies in the system on NHL contracts. Prospect Philipp Grubauer is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery; the Bears’ backup Friday was Matt Tendler, who’s on an amateur tryout agreement at the AHL level.

In other words, Holtby’s big opportunity now, and he wants to turn it into a Stanley Cup.

“It’s been the goal from the start, it hasn’t changed,” the 22-year-old said. “Obviously, the circumstances are not ideal but in order win any championship, you have to be able to deal with adversity and maybe this is the start of it for us.”

If the Caps hope to have any chance of making a run, perhaps they should encase Holtby in bubble wrap when he’s not on the ice. Be careful around sharp objects; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson missed a month of the season after cutting his finger instead of chicken in his kitchen.

Given the Washington’s recent rash of goaltending injuries, Holtby is the last man standing.

Knocking on the wood lectern he was standing behind, Hunter chose to laugh rather than cry.

“It’s one of those things that hopefully it doesn’t come in threes,” he said.

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