- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 18, 2015

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Practice wasn’t supposed to begin for another 20 minutes Saturday afternoon, yet there was Braden Holtby, looping around a faceoff circle on the north end of the ice at Nassau Coliseum, chatting with goaltending coach Mitch Korn.

Holtby had missed the Washington Capitals‘ game the previous night with an illness, watching his replacement, Philipp Grubauer, and the rest of his teammates eke out a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders in Game 2 of the teams’ best-of-seven first-round playoff series from the bowels of Verizon Center.

Approximately 16 hours later, he was able to complete a full practice — or, at least, as much as he could, considering three goaltenders were in attendance.

“I felt fine,” Holtby said. “I mean, you know, obviously, not practicing for two days, or not doing much, I just wanted to get out there, get the blood flowing, get my eyesight back, and it felt good today.”

Holtby, who teased that he didn’t know if he “lost more energy stressing out through the game or through the sickness,” originally began feeling ill in the hours leading up to the series opener on Wednesday, a 4-1 loss for the Capitals. He didn’t take part in Washington’s optional skate the next day, then didn’t feel right when waking up Friday, either, missing the morning skate.

Coach Barry Trotz theorized that the goaltender may have caught the illness from his wife or two young children; when jokingly asked by a reporter if he should keep his distance in the Capitals‘ dressing room on Saturday, Holtby said that he’s past the stage of the illness being contagious.

But it was enough of a concern in recent days that the Capitals‘ athletic training staff was worried not just if Holtby could play, but rather that he could stay hydrated enough and be able to keep his weight up throughout the course of a game.

“It’s tough,” Holtby said. “Playoff time, you’d like to play with three limbs if you could, but the biggest thing is to make sure you’re not a detriment to your team, and I probably would have been [Friday] night. In the end, it worked out. We won a game. Sometimes you make the right decisions and sometimes you don’t, and yesterday, we did.”

Grubauer, who had played in 20 games for the Capitals over the past three regular seasons, was recalled from Hershey on Thursday night as insurance. He said Friday after the game that he was told that morning he would start, and he finished with 18 saves.

“It was a hard game for me,” said Grubauer, who became the first German-born goaltender to start a playoff game in league history. “I didn’t get a lot of shots. Guys kicked it to the outside, which was really hard to grab a shot, and then I didn’t get anything for a couple of minutes. It’s probably a goalie’s worst nightmare, but they did an amazing job in front of me and yeah, just another game.”

Trotz said after practice that he hadn’t yet settled on a starting goaltender for Game 3 on Sunday, only that he’s got “got an idea of a plan, but [doesn’t] have a plan yet.”

If ready, Holtby, who started a franchise record 25 consecutive games to close the regular season, believes he would play.

“I don’t think there would be any questions,” Holtby said.

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