- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

Brent Johnson will start in net for a second straight contest Thursday night, but hold off on those declarations of a full-fledged goalie controversy in the District.

Johnson stopped 42 of 44 shots Tuesday in the Washington Capitals‘ 2-1 overtime loss to the host Ottawa Senators. Couple Johnson’s 2.47 goals-against average this season with free agent acquisition Jose Theodore’s 3.44, and there’s fodder for debate about who should be the team’s No. 1 goalie.

Coach Bruce Boudreau disagrees, however.

“Everything is on a game-to-game basis,” he said. “I plan on using both goalies - I don’t think either goalie is going to have a stretch where they play 10 in a row. Obviously, we’re going to go with the hot hand.

“Theodore is still the No. 1 goalie we have. For [Thursday], Brent is getting another start. Jose played five games in a row. Brent came in and did well, so he’s earned another start.”

Johnson was the forgotten man last season when the Caps added Cristobal Huet at the trade deadline. Huet became the No. 1, and Olie Kolzig was relegated to reserve duties. Johnson, meanwhile, was inactive on game nights and not even allowed on the ice to practice until one of the other two had completed his work.

Huet shunned Washington’s contract offers and signed a four-year, $5.6 million deal with Chicago, and a return for Kolzig was never a viable option. Shortly after general manager George McPhee learned of Huet’s decision, he targeted the next-best available free agent, Theodore, and signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal.

The deal made sense for the Caps because they have two highly rated goalie prospects, Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, in their system and didn’t want to lock into a long-term agreement with an aging netminder.

Theodore has not met expectations early in the season. The 2002 Hart Trophy winner is 4-3 in eight starts and ranks 29th in the NHL with a .877 save percentage.

“We haven’t given up on [Theodore], and we don’t think anything less of him,” Boudreau said. “If Brent goes in and is crappy [Thursday], then obviously I am going to use [Theodore on] Saturday against the Rangers. All I am looking at is [Thursday] night.”

All the shuffling meant Johnson was back in the team’s plans as the No. 2 goalie. Johnson saw only 10 shots in his first start (a win against Vancouver) but has turned aside 76 of 81 attempts in a pair of tough-luck losses since.

“I’ve got to believe [Johnson] is better than he was when he was 25 and he’s better than when he was 29,” Boudreau said. “Experience in goal means a heck of a lot. I don’t know if he would have been able to poke check Daniel Alfredsson on a breakaway five years ago.”

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