- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Michal Neuvirth is familiar with the Washington Capitals. They’re hoping that understanding doesn’t increase in the coming days.

Neuvirth, who spent parts of his first six seasons with the Capitals until he was traded in 2014, will replace Steve Mason in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday in Game 4 of the teams’ first-round playoff series.

It’s a heavy task for Neuvirth, whose team will be knocked out of the postseason if the Capitals win.

“I feel good about my game,” Neuvirth told reporters on Wednesday, following the Flyers’ morning skate. “I’ve been practicing well. I’m ready to go.”

Neuvirth played in 32 games for the Flyers this season, but after making eight consecutive starts from Feb. 16 through March 3, he missed 12 games, stretching from March 19 through April 9, with an unspecified lower-body injury.

He returned to the ice in the Flyers’ regular-season finale on April 10, a 5-2 road victory over the New York Islanders, but Mason returned to goal for the first three games of the playoffs.


SEE ALSO: Capitals’ Taylor Chorney to replace injured Brooks Orpik in Game 4 against Flyers


“Mase and Neuvy, they were good all season long,” Flyers left wing Jakub Voracek told reporters. “They helped get us into the playoffs. If it’s Mase or Neuvy I don’t really care, as long as we win the game.”

Barry Trotz was hired as the Capitals‘ coach the season after Neuvirth was traded, but said on Wednesday that the organization’s familiarity with the goaltender, drafted in the second round by Washington in 2006, should help with a scouting report.

“He knows about our shooters as well,” Trotz said. “I think from a standpoint, it’s easier to identify tendencies because you’ve got probably 15 guys that he’s played with and he can probably talk about our 15 guys as well, and then what [goaltending coach] Mitch Korn does — we get a pretty good scouting report.”

Neuvirth was traded by the Capitals to the Buffalo Sabres on March 5, 2014 in exchange for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Three days shy of a year later, Neuvirth was dealt to the Islanders, and he played 11 minutes in relief of Halak, who signed with them during the offseason, in a 5-1 loss to the Capitals in Game 5 of the teams’ first-round playoff series.

He then signed a two-year, $1.5 million deal with the Flyers in July, finishing the regular season with a 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He had three shutouts, two of which occurred in his first three games.

“I think we all know any goalie can play extremely well on any night, and Neuvy has been in the league for a long time,” said Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. “He’s extremely talented, and we know he’s going to be ready to go, but our main focus is we don’t really worry about who’s at the other end. You scout their tendencies or whatever, but you want to get goals that no goalie can stop. That’s our focus. We’re prepared for him to play well, but our job is to play better.”

Mason allowed two goals on 31 shots in Game 1, four goals on 23 shots in Game 2 and six goals on 27 shots in Game 3. He allowed a fluke goal in the second game, when Jason Chimera’s backhanded chip from the center line went between Mason’s legs, and allowed another odd one in the third game, when the puck caromed off a stanchion and Mason’s glove and Evgeny Kuznetsov tapped it in.

“I think’s Mason’s been a quality goaltender,” Trotz said. “I think Mason’s played really well in this series, especially five-on-five. Where we’ve got to him was on the power play, so I don’t know if it’ll change a whole heck of a lot for us.”

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