- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Braden Holtby was 14 hours removed from a nice victory for the Hershey Bears, making 34 saves on 35 shots, when he got the call at 9:30 Monday morning that he was coming up to the Washington Capitals.

It made sense given Tomas Vokoun’s illness. But then Holtby arrived at Verizon Center at 2 and found out he was starting – not a whole lot of time to prepare.

Dale Hunter reasoned that Michal Neuvirth played Sunday afternoon at the New York Rangers, yet Holtby’s game wrapped up later and he had to travel hours before facing the San Jose Sharks.

“It’s not far though,” the Caps’ coach said. “He came down and he was ready to go.”

Holtby may have been ready to go, but he wasn’t at his sharpest in a 5-3 loss to the Sharks, his first NHL start since March. But the 22-year-old didn’t want to blame his performance on finding out so late that he’d be playing.

“Well, this is where I want to be. I don’t want to look at those types of excuses,” Holtby said. “They could tell me 10 minutes before the game and I’d take it and try and be as prepared as I could.”

Holtby started well and was starting to make Hunter and the Caps look smart. Then Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle wound up from past the red line, beating Holtby with a shot that deflected off Joe Pavelski’s stick and then the netminder’s glove before trickling in.

Teammates are loathe to call those kinds of goals demoralizing, but it certainly didn’t help the Caps feel too good about themselves.

“He would like that one back himself; everybody would,” Hunter said. “But the kid never quit; he kept battling, and that’s what you want to see from a young kid like that.”

Holtby allowed another later on that bounced off his shoulder and in, but two players admitted the Caps did not play well enough in front of him all night. John Carlson and Karl Alzner were both on the ice for all five goals against, three of which came on the penalty kill.

“We left him out to dry. Special teams were the difference tonight, and we didn’t really give him too much help out there,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “I feel bad for the guy being called up right away and put in this situation and no one helping him out.”

Holtby finished with 30 saves on 35 shots, though his immediate future is unclear. The Caps used one of two possible emergency goaltender exemptions to recall him because of Vokoun being sick.

“I was just happy to get today’s game, try to make an impression and hopefully work towards some more starts,” Holtby said.

As for Neuvirth, the 23-year-old said Monday morning that he was starting against the Sharks. It would have been his first action on back-to-back days this season, and that was the rationale Hunter gave for Holtby getting the call. It didn’t seem to matter that Holtby also played Sunday.

“He’s been playing well down there in the minors and we give him a chance. Neuvy played the night before there, so we figured he hasn’t played much of back-to-backs, so Holtby was ready to go,” Hunter said. “So we tried him.”

 

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