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Capitals, Lightning face questions in goal

by Mike Battaglino

CAPITALS (20-16-6) at LIGHTNING (26-13-4)


Last 10: Washington 3-4-3; Tampa Bay 7-2-1

Season series: The Washington Capitals trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 in the first period but wound up winning 6-5 in a shootout Dec. 10. Alex Ovechkin scored four times, including the tying goal with 33 seconds left in the third period.

Big story: Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth hasn't played since Nov. 22, having been a healthy scratch for 10 straight games, but despite coach Adam Oates hinting earlier this week he could get this turn in net, Philipp Grubauer will start for the fifth time in six games.

Grubauer lost last Thursday, and Braden Holtby gave up five goals on 11 shots in a 5-3 road loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, putting Neuvirth back into the conversation.

With the Capitals beginning a stretch of six games in nine days, he could play Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I'm just trying to stay positive and be nice in the locker room. I don't want to be negative around the guys," Neuvirth told the Washington Post. "I don't really bring work home so I'm pretending that it doesn't bother me all the time, but it does bother me."

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington continues to carry the three goaltenders as it attempts to overcome a four-game losing streak and losses in six of seven games.

"It's not optimal," Oates said. "It's not. If there is one guy playing good, the other two guys want their chance. They're fighting for scraps in a sense. So, it's not optimal, but it's the way it is right now."

Neuvirth has played seven games and is 2-3-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He injured his ankle stepping on a puck in warm-ups Nov. 29. The Capitals called up Grubauer from Hershey of the American Hockey League the next day, and he is 5-2-3 with a 2.20 GAA and .932 save percentage.

"Unfortunately for [Neuvirth], he got hurt," Oates said. "You can't control that. It's fluky, he got hurt. Philipp played good. I'm a coach, I'm going to go with what I want. Their job is to be prepared for their turn. That's all you can control."

The goalie/roster situation in part caused the Capitals to waive defenseman Alexander Urbom, who was claimed by the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. Washington called up 19-year-old defenseman Connor Carrick from Hershey and he's expected to be in the lineup Thursday.

Lightning: Tampa Bay has a lesser goaltending question, with Ben Bishop placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed upper-body injury believed to be to his right arm or hand, according to The Tampa Tribune.

Bishop left the game Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers in the first period after sustaining the injury during warm-ups then using his stick during the game.

"It wasn't that bad (after warm-ups)," Bishop told the Tribune. "It was a shot and I don't know if it was from before that or what, but it was nothing. I got off after warm-ups and I was fine, and on that play it just really spiked it."

Anders Lindback, who defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on Tuesday, will make consecutive starts for the first time this season. Cedric Desjardins was called up from Syracuse to serve as backup.

Who's hot: Capitals defenseman Mike Green is coming off a two-goal game and has three of his five goals this season in the past five games. … Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula has 14 points in his past 11 games, with five two-point games. Forward Ondrej Palat has eight points in a seven-game streak. Forward Teddy Purcell has seven points in a five-game streak. Defenseman Matt Carle has five and forward Nikita Kucherov has four, each in a four-game streak.

Injury report: Capitals forward Michael Latta (lower body) and defenseman Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau) are out. … Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia) took part in the morning skate Tuesday. Forward J.T. Brown (shoulder) and defenseman Keith Aulie (hand) are out.

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