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Holtby, Ellis preparing for 3-on-3 onslaught

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Holtby, Ellis preparing for 3-on-3 onslaught

Fresh off a statement season in which he set career highs in wins (41), shutouts (9), games played (73), goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (.923), Braden Holtby will make his preseason debut tonight when the Capitals take on the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.

“Finally,” Holtby said with a grin. “I can’t wait.”

Holtby is scheduled to play the first 30 minutes of tonight’s game before giving way to Dan Ellis, a 35-year-old veteran goaltender signed by the Capitals on July 4, two days after the Capitals acquired right wing T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for right wing Troy Brouwer, goaltender Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick in next year’s draft.

A 12-year veteran of 212 NHL games and 195 AHL games, Ellis said he had received only a few “nibbles” and “poking around” when free agency opened on July 1. But after the Caps made the deal for Oshie, he reached out to Capitals goaltending coach Mitch Korn, his goaltending coach in Nashville from 2007-10.

“It was kind of a last-minute thing,” Ellis said. “I asked Mitch if it opened a spot. He said there was a list and I might be on it. Forty-eight hours later I signed.”

RELATED: Caps' ECHL affiliate reveals 'Charleston Strong' jersey

In all likelihood, Ellis will begin the 2015-16 season as the backup in Hershey, under either Justin Peters or Philipp Grubauer, who are fighting for the right to back up Holtby.

“As a backup goalie you always want to give your starter the rest he needs and when he does get those games off you want to give the team the confidence there’s not going to be a big step down,” said Ellis, who last season played in eight games for the Florida Panthers and 37 games for the AHL San Antonio Rampage.

With rookie prospects Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos expected to begin their pro careers in Hershey, Ellis said he hopes to provide the veteran presence needed on the Bears.

“I’m one of the older guys, next to (Jason) Chimera, and you want to bring a little bit of calmness to the room, especially when things get hairy. I’m a humorous guy and light-hearted, so if you can lighten the load on some of these guys, it’s key.

“Sometimes if a coach is harping down their throats I can be the guy to encourage and tell them to stick with it.”

Since Ellis will play the second half of tonight’s game he’ll also get the call for the 3-on-3 overtime period, which will be played regardless of the score after 60 minutes to allow teams experiment with the new format.

Ellis had some experience with the 3-on-3 format last season in San Antonio, when the AHL experimented with a seven-minute overtime that began 4-on-4 before going to 3-on-3.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a learning curve for these guys,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be pretty wide open. This is the highest level of skill in the world and when you give a guy like (Alex) Ovechkin multiple breakaways he’s going to score. This team is loaded with talent.”

Ellis offered some cautionary advice to players like Ovechkin, saying many missed shots led to game-deciding breakaways the other way.  

“Honestly, when someone missed the net the puck would carom around,” Ellis said. “One guy bolts the zone and is on a breakaway. I’d say we had four or five games ended on straight breakaways. You definitely don’t want to miss the net.”

The Caps will also experiment with the 3-on-3 overtime following regulation on Tuesday night in Boston and again on Friday night, Oct. 2 at home against the Bruins. Unless their other games go to overtime, Holtby’s first taste of 3-on-3 could come on Oct. 2.

“Goaltending doesn’t change much,” Holtby said. “You find the open guys, realize your options and react to it. We train all summer 3-on-3. It’s not exactly our favorite thing, but it will be more fun when it’s intense with guys actually backchecking.”

Caps coach Barry Trotz wondered if some goalies might switch to lighter sticks or gloves so they can handle the puck better in the overtime periods. Holtby says he won’t.

“Mine are kind of based on that already,” he said.

MORE CAPITALS: Oshie thrilled to be playing with Ovechkin

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Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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USA Today

Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-2) head to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada after an overtime/shootout loss against the Florida Panthers last Friday. 

The Caps are determined to avoid the devastation they felt in the first period when they gave away four goals to the Panthers. They will need to focus in the power plays and avoid penalties at all costs.

Many fans were looking forward to the reunion with former player Jay Beagle, who is now centerman for the Canucks, but he is unfortunately out on injury. However you can look out for Caps Nic Dowd, who will have his own homecoming game against his former team. 

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Canucks which takes place at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.
 

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 8 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

When: Monday, October 22 at 10:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Canucks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Canucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS SCHEDULE

9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
10:00 PM: Capitals vs. Canucks
12:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lars Eller, F, Capitals: In his last game, he had a three-point night with three assists. He is a messaive help and shined within the trio of Vrana and Connoly on Friday.

Tim Schaller, F, Canucks: He was struggling in the preseason but came back with a vengeance. He assisted with a penatly kill and is a key component in fourth line. 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

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What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

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USA TODAY

What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. What is his job during the game?

Friday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers was one of the rare games that featured four goalies. Braden Holtby and James Reimer started, but both were ultimately pulled in what was a high-scoring affair. In stepped Pheonix Copley and Michael Hutchinson.

And yet, despite being little more than an afterthought in the team’s preparation for the game, both Copley (one goal allowed on 19 shots, .947 save percentage) and Hutchinson (one goal allowed on 11 shots, .909 save percentage) stepped in and out-performed the starters giving both of their respective teams a chance to win the game.

“It's easier in some aspects,” Holtby said of coming into a game off the bench, something he has done at various points of his career despite being the primary starter for Washington. “I think that's why you see a lot of guys go in and have success right away and have good games because you don't have that day or two days to be getting rid of your thoughts and that kind of thing.”

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. Every team dresses two goalies on the roster for a game. One starts and one sits on the bench as the backup in case he is needed because of injury or because a coach chooses to make a goalie switch. That backup is tasked with being ready at all times to step into the game knowing full well that, if all goes according to plan, he will not get to play at all.

Holtby and Reimer had prepared for Friday’s game knowing they were going to start. Both players took warmups in order to prepare them to play a full game while Copley and Hutchinson had little reason to think they would see any action at all.

By the end of the second period, however, both Holtby and Reimer had been replaced. Copley at least had an intermission to prepare as he came on at the start of the second period while Hutchinson had to step in midway through the second period.

“I guess it can be a little challenging,” Copley said, “But I feel like as long as you’re kind of paying attention to the game and your mind's kind of in that hockey mindset then if something happens, I'll be ready to go.”

Professional athletes are creatures of habit. To have to step into a game unexpectedly with little to no warning or preparation and be expected to perform at the highest level is an incredibly tough mental challenge.

And yet, in many ways, it can be easier than starting.

“The whole thing about mental preparation is so that you go out there not thinking about anything, not worrying about any of that,” Holtby said. “When you're forced in with a matter of 30 seconds, there's no time to think about anything. You just go in and play.”

For goalies, not starting does not mean having the night off. Both coaches and teammates alike can lean upon a backup netminder as an extra set of eyes.

“Sometimes they'll ask a question like did it look like I had room there?” Copley said. “Was it a shot or missed? Did you see what happened on this play? So I just try to be there and watch.”

Some coaches even give goalies assignments in game, though that practice seems to be on the decline.

“I know [Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock] makes them look at faceoffs or something,” Holtby said. “It's pretty archaic. There's guys that do that now that are better than the backup goalie at looking at things.”

In truth, there is no defined in-game requirements for most goalies in the NHL when they sit as backups and that is true of the Caps’ tandem. That makes the job of a backup a very simple one.

“I just try and be ready if I have to go in,” Copley said. “Make sure I'm physically and mentally ready and be a good teammate.”

Holtby put it even more succinctly as he said, “Don't do anything stupid.”