No one could have predicted that the Capitals would be dealing with injuries to both Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth at the start of the playoffs, but that’s the situation they find themselves in just three days ahead of Game 1 of a first-round series against the Boston Bruins.
General Manager George McPhee said Neuvirth, who suffered an apparent injury to his left leg on April 5, will try to practice with the team on Tuesday but that it’s uncertain whether the 24-year-old Czech will be available in the first round.
“Yeah he could if everything goes okay in the next few days,” McPhee said when asked about the possibility Neuvirth will be able to suit up against the Bruins, “But we won’t know until Thursday, obviously, where we are.”
Meanwhile, Vokoun will likely need more time to recover from a groin injury but McPhee said the veteran netminder should be on the ice for a solo workout Tuesday. “I think he’s a little bit behind Neuvirth,” McPhee said of Vokoun’s schedule.
Their injuries leave Washington with prospect Braden Holtby, 22 years old with 21 games of NHL experience, as the No. 1 netminder and presumed starter until further notice. Holtby has played 16 playoff games in his career between the AHL and WHL.
This isn’t the first time the Capitals have needed young goaltenders to step up in the postseason. Neuvirth started all nine games in the 2011 playoffs and prior to that Semyon Varlamov appeared in 19 of their 21 games in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs.
The largest difference with those scenarios is that Neuvirth, who was 23 at the time, and Varlamov, who was 21 turning 22 in the 2009 postseason, had spent those regular seasons in the NHL.
“Well we’ve done it before. We have no choice -- if the other guys aren’t ready to go, he’s playing,” McPhee said about Holtby. “He can handle it. We’ve had other goalies do it that were the same age, or younger.”