Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek to make NHL debut against Buffalo


When the Capitals take the ice Friday for the rematch against the Buffalo Sabres, there will be one change in the lineup as Vitek Vanecek will get the start for Washington in net.

"Vitek will start tonight," head coach Peter Laviolette said in his pregame availability.

Ilya Samsonov got the start in Thursday's opener and earned the win, making 26 saves on 30 shots. Now the Caps will look to make it 2-0 with their young goalie tandem.

Vanecek, 25, will be making his NHL debut. A second-round draft pick in 2014, Vanecek has spent the last four seasons with the Hershey Bears in the AHL earning all-star honors in each of the last two. The Samsonov, Vanecek tandem is a familiar one to Bears fans as Hershey boasted that tandem in 2018-19.

Samsonov enters the season as the undisputed No. 1, but Vanecek will certainly have the opportunity to play his way into more games. The condensed nature of the season will provide plenty of opportunities for Laviolette to insert Vanecek if he plays well.

"It's a good opportunity for [Vanecek] to get in," Laviolette said of Friday's game. "We've got two young goaltenders. I thought Sammy did his job last night. It's a back-to-back situation, it's a great time to get everybody involved in the game and get him his first game."

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage starts at 6 p.m. with Capitals Pregame Live followed by the game at 7 p.m. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Capitals Postgame Live.