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Vokoun's injury leaves Caps with net quandary

by Ben Raby
WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals signed veteran free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun in the summer with the hope he would become a key cog in a deep playoff run.

But with eight regular-season games remaining, the Capitals are not yet guaranteed a playoff berth and their springtime fate could come down to the play of younger goalies Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.

Vokoun has not played since a 3-2 loss last Friday in Winnipeg and the 35-year-old remains sidelined with a nagging groin injury. The injury has limited Vokoun to just three starts in 14 games since Feb. 22.

"It's just unfortunate for a goalie," Vokoun said after a light skate Friday morning. "I'm not limited in skating or biking or anything like that- it doesn’t bother me walking. It's just for a goalie you do so much explosive stuff and stretching and if you have a pulled groin you can't guard it. It gets used all the time, so it’s a bad injury for goalies."

The Capitals recalled Holtby from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Monday and the 22-year-old stopped 57 of 61 shots this week in a 5-3 win in Detroit and 2-1 shootout loss in Philadelphia.

It is not clear if Capitals coach Dale Hunter will go back to Holtby tonight against the Winnipeg Jets or if he will go with Neuvirth, who turns 24 today.

A possible return date for Vokoun is also unknown but it does not sound as though he will be ready to play during the Capitals upcoming three-game homestand.

"Maybe shoot for [a return] sometime next week, but I don’t know," Vokoun said. "You can pull it and [suffer] a setback. It's more of an unpredictable situation right now."

The eighth-place Capitals begin the three game homestand tonight against Winnipeg with upcoming games Sunday against the Minnesota Wild and Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

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