Vokoun finally gets homecoming start for Capitals at Panthers

Veteran goaltender has shut former team out twice this season

SUNRISE, Fla. — Dale Hunter knows from his playing days what it’s like to go into an old building and face your former team.

“You want to win, and you want to play well,” the Washington Capitals’ coach said. “When I got traded from Quebec, you want to go back and win.”

Yet twice earlier this season when given the chance of playing Tomas Vokoun at the Florida Panthers, in a place he still calls home, Hunter went with Michal Neuvirth. The Caps lost both games.

Finally, Vokoun gets the nod at BankAtlantic Center on Friday, with his wife, Dagmar, and his daughters, Adelle and Natalie, in attendance.

“It’s a big game and you hope they have confidence in you to start you in a situation like that,” Vokoun said. “That’s pretty much as far as I take it. We need two points. I think both teams can agree on that, and everybody else. It’s [a] huge two points. It’s either two-point separation or a [six]-point separation, so that’s big difference.”

Vokoun again noted that it’s “coach’s decisions” who starts in net, not a far cry from his comments back in December that he’s a “paid employee” and will play when told he’s in the lineup.

The 35-year-old, who spent four years in Florida, shut the Panthers out twice at home.

“You know what? Today’s game starts 0-0. No matter what happened; they beat us here twice,” Vokoun said. “This is a new game, and you’ve got to work for your breaks, and you’ve got to earn your win. I don’t care if we lose 10 times to them or win 10 times. Brand new day, brand new game, so we’ve got to play good game to win.”

It likely starts with Vokoun, who missed the past two games with the flu.

“He’s ready to play. He’s a professional. He prepares in practice,” Hunter said. “You see how hard he works in practice. He’s going to be ready to play.”

Vokoun reported to be feeling fine after three straight full practices.

“I feel as good as I could,” he said.

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