Ben Raby, wtop.com
RALEIGH, N.C.- Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth was nearly flawless in Wednesday’s 3-0 win in Montreal, turning aside 31 shots in his first start since Dec. 26.
But even before Neuvirth helped the Caps snap a two-game road losing streak, Caps Head Coach Dale Hunter had already decided that Tomas Vokoun (19-11-0, 2.53 GAA, .917 SV%) would return to the cage tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hunter had told his goalies of the plan upon their landing in Montreal and not even Neuvirth’s second shutout of the season could change his mind.
“Michal hasn’t played,” Hunter said of the decision to rest Neuvirth again tonight. “He had lots of rubber in Montreal with the seven penalties that we had. He had to move side to side maybe a thousand times there. Definitely it’s tiresome on the legs; he hasn’t played for a while. It’s good for him to get a rest here today anyways.”
Vokoun will start for the 11th time in 12 games tonight as the Caps seek their first two-game road winning streak since winning in Ottawa Dec. 7 and in Winnipeg Dec. 15. The Caps have yet to win back-to-back games within the same road trip this season.
Vokoun made a season-high 43 saves in the Caps 2-1 win over Carolina last Sunday at Verizon Center and is 7-3-0 with a 2.07 goals-against-average and .936 save percentage in his last ten starts.
“You always have to perform, nothing is certain,” Vokoun said. “If you don’t perform then you’re not going to be out there. So it’s nice to get a vote of confidence but there are still a lot of games left and you still have to put good efforts out there.”
The Hurricanes (16-24-8) are last in the Eastern Conference with 40 points but are 4-1-1 in their last six games at home. Cam Ward (16-17-7, 3.01 GAA, .905 SV%) will start in goal for Carolina.
TOP LINE MOJO:
Based on Friday morning’s skate Marcus Johansson will once again center Washington’s No.1 line tonight alongside Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer.
With Nicklas Backstrom missing his eighth straight game with a concussion, Johansson is among a group of players who have been looked upon to raise their games in the absence of the team’s leading scorer.
“There’s no pressure to be Nick,” Johansson said. “No one can be Nick. He’s such an extraordinary player, you can’t replace him. I’m just trying to play my game the way I always play. I’m still me, so I’m trying to do what I always do.”
For Johansson, that means using his speed to help create scoring chances and utilizing his teammates. In his last six games, Johansson has three goals and five points.
THIS & THAT FROM A.M. SKATE:
Defenseman Tomas Kundratek will return to the Capitals lineup tonight after sitting as a healthy scratch Wednesday in Montreal. The 22-year-old has played four games since being recalled from AHL Hershey and is still looking for his first career NHL point