Back-To-Back – With Michal Neuvirth coming down with an illness, Braden Holtby will get his eighth consecutive start in goal for the Capitals on Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Thus far in his NHL career, Holtby has started both ends of back-to-back games just once, and that was during the first round of last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs when he was in net for a 4-3 Washington win at Boston on April 21 and then absorbed a 4-3 overtime loss to the Bruins the next day at Verizon Center. Holtby made 27 saves on 31 shots in the second of those contests.
During his last four seasons in the AHL, Holtby has made 28 appearances (25 starts) on short rest. He is 15-10-1 with two shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and a .915 save pct. in those situations.
Tri-Level – With Neuvirth unavailable for backup duty against the Flyers tonight, the Caps summoned 21-year-old goaltender Philipp Grubauer from its AHL Hershey affiliate. Grubauer will don an NHL sweater for the first time tonight.
Grubauer started this season at the ECHL level, where he went 19-5-1 with a 2.30 GAA and a .912 save pct. He was 6-4-1 with a 2.10 GAA and a .928 save pct. in a dozen games with Hershey this season.
Tonight, Grubauer will dress for a game at his third different level in 2012-13.
Both Neuvirth and Holtby have had similar seasons in their careers. Neuvirth played for ECHL South Carolina, AHL Hershey and got into five NHL games with Washington in 2008-09.
In 2009-10, Holtby played for both South Carolina and Hershey and he also dressed for Washington as a backup in five games.
Special Stuff – Tonight’s game between the Caps and the Flyers features a pair of teams that have both been stellar at both special teams in recent games.
The Capitals’ power play is 13-for-30 (43.1%) in the team’s last 10 games while Washington’s penalty-killing outfit has been successful on 23 of its last 25 missions (92%) over the team’s last seven games.
Philadelphia has scored at least one power-play goal in four of its last five games, going 7-for-24 (29.2%) with the extra man during that span. The Flyers have been perfect on the penalty kill in eight of their last 10 games, and they’re 36-for-39 (92.3%) during that stretch.
Time Management – With a second game in as many nights looming on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Washington did a good job of managing the ice time of its 18 skaters in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Hurricanes at Verizon Center.
Caps defenseman John Carlson led Washington with 22:30 in ice time on Tuesday, the lowest figure for the Caps’ ice time leader in any of the team’s 18 games this season. Washington’s least-used blueliner was rookie Tomas Kundratek at 16:07 on the night. The difference between top and bottom in ice time for Washington’s six defenders in the game was just 6:23, the tightest it has been in any game this season.
None of Washington’s 12 forwards logged as much as 20 minutes in Tuesday’s game; Alex Ovechkin led with a modest total of 17:52. Each of the Capitals’ 12 forwards skated at least 11:19 in the game, with right wing Joey Crabb being at the other end of that ice time line.
Momentum Change – Just past the midway point of last night’s game with the Hurricanes, the Caps owned a 51-30 lead in shots attempted. Washington was dominating the Canes territorially and in terms of possession, and it was swarming the Carolina end looking to add to its 2-0 lead and break the game open.
Carolina goaltender Cam Ward prevented that from happening, and the Hurricanes slowly began to turn the tide back in the other direction in terms of both territory and puck possession.
Caps defenseman John Erskine drew a boarding call on Carolina’s Tim Wallace that put Washington on the power play nine minutes into the third period. It was a crucial event in the game and it came at a point where the next goal was likely to have significant meaning.
Having a chance to go on the power play enabled the Caps to spend some time at the other end of the ice and exhale just a bit. Washington did not score on the power play, but it retained possession in the attack zone and Carlson hopped over the boards and joined the attack, pounding home a rebound of a Mathieu Perreault shot to seal a much needed victory for Washington.
By night’s end, Carolina had drawn exactly even in the shots attempted department at 68-68, meaning the Canes out-attempted the Capitals by a 38-17 margin over the game’s final 27:15.
On The Plus Side – Getting a point tonight in Philadelphia is the difference between a winning month and a .500 month of February for Washington. The Caps were 1-5-1 in January, but they can finish February with a 7-5 mark if they can claim two points in Philly tonight.