- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2013

The Washington Capitals already clinched the Southeast Division, so coach Adam Oates gave goaltender Braden Holtby his pick: Start Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators or Saturday night against the Boston Bruins, because Michal Neuvirth was getting a chance to play.

Holtby chose the Bruins and will start the regular-season finale as he and the Caps get into a regular rhythm for the playoffs.

Michal played great, obviously,” Holtby said Friday. “It’s good to get us both in there and get ready for playoffs that way.”

Holtby a year ago was the man in net for the Caps because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Neuvirth, but it’s now his net without question. That is why, in part, the 23-year-old had an opportunity to choose the best approach to wrap up the regular season.

“In terms of rest, what’s too much rest, how recent do you want to play, etc. I don’t think there’s any perfect formula; I don’t think anybody’s ever perfected that,” Oates said. “But it makes sense to him to play Saturday and if we play Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s kind of a good rhythm because we’ve almost played every other day this year.”

Holtby wants to play every game; he’s not much for sharing. But Neuvirth had only started four of the previous 35 games.

“He hasn’t played enough this year, he’s a very good goalie, proved it again [Thursday] night,” Oates said. “I wanted to get him a game just because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s become kind of a backup just because Holts has played so much and because of what’s happened, but we feel that we need both goalies.”

Ward feeling blue

Right wing Joel Ward took part in Caps practice Friday, wearing a light blue jersey that meant he very likely wouldn’t play against Boston but signified progress in his road back from a badly bruised left knee.

“I think today might’ve been my best day so far,” Ward said. “I felt good. Just got a chance to mix in a few stops and starts. That seemed to give me trouble in the past, but, yeah it’s definitely moving along. I feel pretty good, I guess. I just got some more cranking out to do, but other than that, no, today was a positive day.”

Ward could be ready during the first round, if this progress continues. Oates said it would be up to the 32-year-old and trainer Greg Smith.

But once Ward (22 points in 32 career playoff games) is ready, the Caps’ coach will have a decision to make. Someone, most likely Aaron Volpatti, will have to come out, but Ward is going in once the knee is healed.

“I would say that if Joel’s healthy, he’s playing,” Oates said. “He’s been one of our top nine all year long. He’s second power play, PK. He’s going to play.”

Laich still out

Forward Brooks Laich has not skated since re-injuring himself April 4. He missed the Caps’ first 28 games of the season with a groin injury, and it’s uncertain when he’ll be back on the ice.

““I honestly don’t know. I don’t know,” Oates said. “I’m kind of removed from that a little bit. He’s just working out every day, trying to be healthy and get stronger. As soon as he can, we’ll take him back.” Laich should be considered out indefinitely.

“Obviously he’s very frustrated and everybody is,” Oates said. “When he came into our lineup, it was obviously very important. He added a huge dimension to us, got us going in a sense and we need him.”



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