- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2011

Tomas Vokoun was anointed the Capitals starter in July. Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about the “respect” the 35-year-old veteran deserved, even with Michal Neuvirth around.

Then came an innocent question asked of Vokoun on Friday, about whether he was nervous about Saturday night’s regular-season opener against the Hurricanes.

“No, I’m not really nervous because I’m not playing,” Vokoun said.

It had been assumed that Vokoun, signed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal July 2, would get the nod. Instead, now the Caps are expected to start Neuvirth, given not only what Vokoun had to say, but Boudreau’s surprised reaction to the question.

“I didn’t know that was public knowledge now,” the coach said.

When informed that Vokoun told reporters, Boudreau remained tight-lipped.

“Well, I’m not ready to comment on that,” he said.

Vokoun added the he was “supposedly” starting the next game — Monday against the Lightning.

Neuvirth was 2-1 in the preseason with a 1.34 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. Vokoun was 1-2 with a 3.26 GAA and .870 save percentage.

Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, Neuvirth confirmed that he would be in net against the Hurricanes and talked about being “pretty excited” about the opportunity.

“I just found out after practice, and, yeah, I was a little surprised,” Neuvirth said. “I think I had a great training camp and had very good preseason games and probably that’s why I’m playing tomorrow.”

But as recently as Sunday, Boudreau made it seem like Vokoun was the guy, even though Neuvirth was set to play a lot this year.

Tomas is No. 1, but we’ve got a No. 1A,” Boudreau said. “Training camp, you got guys that come in that deserve the respect to be where they were, and Tomas has earned that.”

Apparently Neuvirth has earned the opening-night gig. But the 23-year-old didn’t want to make it into too much.

“It’s only one game,” he said. “I’m going to stay in the net and try my best and help the team win the hockey game tomorrow and that’s all.”

Boudreau was asked what makes it hard to choose between goaltenders.

“We’ve got two real good ones,” he said.

He agreed with a question about goalie choices sometimes being like pitching matchups, but the stats by Neuvirth and Vokoun don’t seem to be in stark contrast with this matchup.

In 29 career games against Carolina, Vokoun is 12-10-1-4 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. Neuvirth is 1-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage.

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