The slumping Washington Capitals will switch things up in goal on Friday and start Braden Holtby for the first time in 10 days.
Holtby, last year’s playoff hero, will be between the pipes against Philadelphia, snapping Michal Neuvirth’s streak of five consecutive starts.
Boasting woeful numbers across the board — 0-2-0, 5.04 GAA, .863 save percentage — Holtby is looking to put his sluggish start to the season behind him.
In this instance, the past is a small sample size (two games, two losses to Winnipeg and Tampa Bay) but large enough for Holtby to realize he needs to play better.
“Obviously I want to forget about them,” he explained. “But there’s a lot of things that I’ve taken out of them that I want to work on and a lot of good things that happened at the same time.
“That’s the way hockey goes.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Caps head coach Adam Oates deals with his goaltending situation after tonight.
The Caps play four games next week — Sunday vs. Pittsburgh, Tuesday vs. Toronto, Thursday at Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Florida — and it’s possible Oates could go right back to Neuvirth for the majority.
“I obviously understand that we want to get some stability to our game right now and Michal’s giving it to us,” Holtby said prior to Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Toronto. “That’s just the life of being a goaltender.”
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.