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Goalie Holtby expects to start Game 3 for Capitals

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby practiced Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, said he felt fine on the ice, and didn't see a reason he wouldn't start Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders on Sunday (12 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

"I don't think there will be any questions," said Holtby, who did not play Game 2 on Friday because he was ill.

Holtby said he started to feel ill hours before Game 1 on Wednesday. He played through it and made 23 saves in a 4-1 loss at Verizon Center.

But Holtby, who started 72 games during the regular season, was unable to play Game 2. Instead of using backup Justin Peters, the Capitals recalled Philipp Grubauer from Hershey of the American Hockey League and he made 18 saves in a 4-3 win.

Kyle Okposo gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead with 5:51 left in the second period, but Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored two minutes later and Washington scored twice in the third period. Grubauer made seven saves in the third period to even the best-of-7 series 1-1.

"It was needed for our group and everyone stepped up," said Holtby, who watched the game at Verizon Center. "It was a pretty emotional game. I don't know if I lost more energy stressing out through the game or through the sickness. It was a big win for us, one that we needed. But now we're moving on to Game 3 and making sure we're playing even better and winning a game.

"I don't think I've ever missed a game for being sick. It was at the point where the training staff was working as hard as they could so I could try to play. It just came to a point where I didn't feel and they didn't feel I would be a better option than what else we had. It's tough. At playoff time you'd like to play with three limbs if you could. But the biggest thing is making sure you're not a detriment to your team and I probably would have been [Friday] night. In the end, it worked out. We won a game."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he hadn't decided who would start Sunday but seemed confident his top goalie would be available.

"We'll see how he feels [Sunday], but yeah, he looked good," Trotz said. "I don't know if he felt back to his old self, but yeah, he looked fine. He felt good. Hopefully it's blown by and he'll be ready to go."

Ovechkin said, "He's our No. 1 goalie and it's nice to see him back."


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