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Philipp Grubauer set to start as Braden Holtby is honored by the Capitals

Philipp Grubauer set to start as Braden Holtby is honored by the Capitals

Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer will get the nod Tuesday against the Avalanche, despite the fact that it’s Braden Holtby Night at Verizon Center.

A little weird? Perhaps. But Coach Barry Trotz said it was an easy decision to make.

“I didn’t toss and turn about it,” Trotz said, asked about the timing. “I asked some of the coaches and [goaltending coach] Mitch [Korn] and all that. …I think what we have to do is what’s best for our hockey team—and this is a game that we said Grubauer would get.”

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So Grubauer will make his first start of the season against a surging Avalanche team that’s opened the season with wins over the powerful Stars and defending champion Penguins. Holtby, meantime, will get to sit back and enjoy his day, which features a pre-game ceremony saluting his record-breaking 2015-16 season. He’ll also receive a gift from the organization.

“It’s well deserved,” Trotz said. “Holts, obviously, his body of work last year was phenomenal, record-setting, Vezina Trophy. He did it all last year. He can bask in it today a little bit and we’ll put him right back to work in Florida and the Rangers, for sure.”

As for Grubauer, he’s excited to get some work so early in the season. He also acknowledged the fact that he’ll likely start more than 16 games he got a year ago due to the schedule.    

“Of course,” Grubauer said. “The schedule is a little bit more compressed this year so everything is more packed together, a couple of more back-to-backs, I think. So it’s nice to get a couple of more games maybe this year.”   

“I know Holts wants to play every game,” he added. “I want to play every game. But it’s a long-term thing. We’re trying to win the Stanley Cup here, [so] it doesn’t help us if somebody is tired or gassed…You want to find a happy medium [between] playing the right amount of games and not getting out of a groove.”

“I’m happy with [playing more]. Last year was a little bit tougher. You get one game and you basically wait three, three-and-a-half weeks to get another game. So it’s a little bit nicer to get into a rhythm right away.”

Grubauer helped Germany clinch a spot in the 2018 Winter Games in early September but he did not get into a game for Team Europe at the World Cup. He was also limited to just a game-and-a-half in the preseason.

“I just felt like [a] nonconference [game], early, get him in,” Trotz said. “I just felt that the timing was right. I know I could go with Holts with the games spread out a little bit, but I don’t think it’s fair to Gruby. We’re going to need him this year and down the stretch. He needs to play.”


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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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