Goalie Zach Fucale will make his NHL debut Thursday in a start for the Capitals against the Detroit Red Wings, head coach Peter Laviolette told the media. Ilya Samsonov will be the backup.
Speaking after an optional morning skate, Laviolette said Vitek Vanecek was out for what he called a "maintenance day."
Vanecek looked banged up after a collision late in Monday's game against the Buffalo Sabres. In the postgame celebration with teammates, he could be seen barely lifting his left arm.
Fucale was recalled from the Hershey Bears on Wednesday where he has been extremely impressive. In five games this season, he has a .933 save percentage and 1.73 GAA. In the 2021 season, Fucale posted a .932 save percentage and 1.80 GAA in 11 games.
Fucale was a second-round draft pick in 2013 by the Montreal Canadiens. Since aging out of juniors, he has cycled between the AHL and ECHL and even spent some time in Europe, but he has yet to play an NHL game.
"I feel like the last few years have gone, been trending in the right direction," Fucale said Wednesday. "Yeah, I got a good thing going and I’m just sticking to my game and I feel like things are working well right now.”
Fucale will now be the fifth player to make his NHL with the Capitals this season as the team continues to deal with several injuries. Hendrix Lapierre, Brett Leason, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Aliaksei Protas all saw their first NHL action this season. Connor McMichael and Martin Fehervary are also technically rookies, though they made their debuts before 2021-22.
Thursday's game is the front end of a back-to-back as the Caps will play in Columbus on Friday. Laviolette would not project a starting goalie for Friday's game saying the coaches would continue to assess Vanecek's status.