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At the Rink blog

Holtby's hot play leading Capitals

Wednesday, 02.27.2013 / 1:09 PM

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer / 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

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2012-2013 At the Rink blog
Holtby's hot play leading Capitals

PHILADELPHIA -- Forgive the Washington Capitals for seeming insensitive, but the news that Michal Neuvirth is ill and won't be able to play Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers isn't exactly devastating.

It's the exact opposite.

Of course, the Capitals would prefer to have Neuvirth healthy and with them on this trip to Philadelphia, but the fact that he's ill means Braden Holtby will make his eighth straight start and second in as many days.

That's good news for a team that has won two straight and five of seven, including a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, due in large part to Holtby's 33 saves.

"Right now he's been playing the best and we need to be winning every single game we play; we don't have an opportunity to make a change when things are going well," defenseman Karl Alzner said after the team's optional morning skate at Wells Fargo Center. "He's definitely been put in that spot as a No. 1, so I think it's good as long as he doesn't get worn out or anything. But, for us right now, in our situation we need to ride that wave."

Holtby, who did not take part in the morning skate Wednesday, has provided stability as the Capitals ride that recent wave. He has bookended his past seven consecutive starts with shutouts, giving up one goal in a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

It's no surprise the Capitals started to dig themselves out of their early-season hole the moment Holtby improved his play and began to run with the No. 1 goaltending job over Neuvirth.

Washington was 2-8-1 after 11 games, but has picked up 10 points in its past seven games to move within four points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. In that seven-game run, Holtby has allowed 14 goals and posted a .937 save percentage.

"When he's rolling you just want to keep rolling with him," Capitals forward Jason Chimera told NHL.com. "He's looking calm again, like he did in the playoffs, and that's a good sign for us."

Philipp Grubauer was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League to serve as Holtby's backup against the Flyers.

"[Holtby] wants every minute, every start and he works hard to get that," Alzner said. "He's also superstitious, so I don't think he wants to get out of the groove he's in right now."

Capitals coach Adam Oates won't address the media until 5:30 p.m. ET, but provided he doesn't make any changes, here is what Washington's lineup should look like Wednesday night:

Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin

Eric Fehr - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Wojtek Wolski - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

John Erskine - John Carlson

Tom Poti - Tomas Kundratek

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Jack Hillen

Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Casey Wellman, Roman Hamrlik

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Quote of the Day

Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals