Capitals notes: Braden Holtby to work on ‘little things’

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Braden Holtby played plenty for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout, and yet the Washington Capitals goaltender acknowledged some “rust” in Saturday night’s loss.

Holtby wasn’t as bad as it appeared just looking at his allowing six goals on 34 shots.

“There are some things that I wanted to work on, but overall there wasn’t any patterns or whatnot that I needed to work on,” Holtby said. “It’s just little things.”

It figures that Holtby will get a chance to rebound Tuesday night in the Caps’ home opener at Verizon Center against the Winnipeg Jets. At that point he’ll be able to show if he has made those little improvements.

One adjustment is to the amount of traffic he sees now vs. earlier this season.

“Between the minors and the NHL for the goalies, one of the big differences is vision,” goaltending coach Dave Prior said. “NHL teams and players do such a better job of standing in front of the net, screening you out, trying to keep you deep in your net, getting in your face. That’s something he knows well from the playoffs. You just have to keep trying to deal with it.”

Holtby didn’t see Eric Brewer’s shot on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first goal, or Marty St. Louis’ shot that became the game-winner. But screens aren’t going anywhere, even if the Caps need to do a better job of not blocking their own goalie.

“You just got to try and play through it. It’s a hard thing to do,” Holtby said. “One of those things that you’re gonna work hard in practice, try and find sight lines the best you can.”

Prior said Holtby moved on the first goal when he didn’t see the puck and should have been more aggressive on the fifth one. But he didn’t single out too much for Holtby to change moving forward.

“I wasn’t dissatisfied with his game considering it might be eight months since his last NHL game,” Prior said. “There’s a couple things I would have liked him to do differently.”

Coach Adam Oates wasn’t critical after the game or Monday of Holtby’s performance and wouldn’t blame him.

“No. We’re a group here,” Oates said.

Hillen on IR; Kundratek recalled

The Caps placed Jack Hillen on injured reserve Monday after the defenseman suffered an apparent left shoulder injury Saturday night. The team is listing him officially as week-to-week with an “upper body” injury.

“I’m not really sure on the time frame,” Oates said. “We’ll have to wait and see. It’s only been a couple days.”

Hillen’s shoulder struck the boards after he was hit by Vinny Lecavalier and he did not return.

“I feel for the guy with it being his first year with the team and he was trying to get some ice time,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “We wish him a speedy recovery until he can get back out there.”

To take Hillen’s spot, the Caps recalled defenseman Tomas Kundratek from Hershey.

Kundratek led the Bears with 13 goals but also had a team-worst minus-13 rating. He was named an AHL All-Star.

“It’s good,” Kundratek said. “I wish my plus-minus would be a little bit better, but it’s good.”

The 23-year-old played five games for the Caps last season. But Oates explained that one reason Kundratek was recalled was because Washington needed another right-handed defenseman.

“We’re kind of short one,” Oates said. “He played a little bit here last year and just a little bit of balance.”

Oates went with seven defensemen in the season opener, but he said he might go back to the standard six for the Jets game despite having eight defensemen healthy and on the active roster.

Ice chips

• Forward Brooks Laich (groin) could skate with the Caps on Wednesday, Oates said. Laich did not make the trip to Tampa with the team.

• Alex Ovechkin’s fiancee, Maria Kirilenko, lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, 6-2, 6-0. “She lost. It was tough, she just said, ‘It’s impossible to beat her,’” Ovechkin said.

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