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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 12/23/2010

Neuvirth gets fourth straight start, will face Penguins for the first time

By Katie Carrera

As expected, Michal Neuvirth was the first goaltender off the ice for the Capitals this morning and looks to be getting the start against the Penguins at Verizon Center, as Coach Bruce Boudreau alluded he would several times.

This will be Neuvirth's first career appearance against the Penguins, who are expected to start Marc-Andre Fleury (15-7-1) 2.30 goals-against average, .917 save percentage. Fleury played in the third period of Pittsburgh's 5-2 win over Florida last night, giving up one goal on 16 shots, when Brent Johnson left the game with an injury.

Some quick morning skate updates from KCI before this afternoon's live Q&A:

--Boudreau said Matt Hendricks is sick, the latest victim of what's been ailing the Capitals, and that he was told to stay home this morning. He will be a game-time decision against the Penguins.

--Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who has been out since breaking his thumb against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 6, took part in the morning skate and was stick handling more than during his previous on-ice sessions.

I talked to Schultz after he finished the long scratches skate this morning. He had the cast taken off his right hand on Tuesday and is now playing with a plastic splint on his thumb. He had been skating with a right handed stick but has switched back to his usual left-handed one these past two days and is now working to build up the strength in his hand again. There's no definite timetable for Schultz's return, but it may be sooner than later.

"It's just a matter of tolerating a little bit of pain when passing and shooting the puck. It's better than I thought it was going to be at this stage after two weeks with the cast," said Schultz, who admitted he would like to be ready for the Winter Classic but doesn't want to rush back. "A lot is up to me, with the pain and what I think I can do out there...I'd like to play in [the Winter Classic] and maybe get a game in before then to just get the feel back, but if it's not good enough to go I'm not going to rush."

--Matt Bradley had successful surgery on his broken finger yesterday, according to a team spokesman. His timeline for a return is still 2-4 weeks.

By Katie Carrera  | December 23, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Injuries, Jeff Schultz, Matt Bradley, Matt Hendricks  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Live Caps Q&A: Today, 12 p.m.
Next: Caps teammates: Mike Knuble has the respect of the room

Comments

"Boudreau said Matt Hendricks is sick, the latest victim of what's been ailing the Capitals, and that he was told to stay home this morning. "

Katie, could you find out from amongst those that have been/are sick...how many of them got their water bottles handed to them by Sloan. Something tells me there is a strong correlation. =)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | December 23, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

If Hendricks is out then DJK almost has to get a sweater. The only other two on the team right now that have any skill dropping the mits are Ersk and Beagle. Esskay needs to remain eating nachos in the pressbox.

Posted by: PhilR | December 23, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Katie, could you find out from amongst those that have been/are sick...how many of them got their water bottles handed to them by Sloan. Something tells me there is a strong correlation. =)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | December 23, 2010 11:59 AM

esskay is testing his formulas to see how much 'sickness' to add to the water bottles for each player and how long it lasts. he needs to get it ironed out by april!

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 23, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

So no one answered before...every team has a weakness...what is the Pens?

Posted by: capscoach | December 23, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

capscoach,

Earlier in the year I would have said MAF but lately he has been lights out for them. Right now I really do not see a real weakness on that team unfortunately, they are clicking on all cylinders. They really reloaded that team during the off season and have put a very scary roster together. They were losing so much at the beginning of the season due to injuries but are now just scary.

Posted by: PhilR | December 23, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

@capscoach

Havent watched a lot of Pens games, so cant help you there.

If I had to guess though, I'd say the best strategy would be to use MP and his line matched up against Crosby's. The trick is, MP has to be clean shaven. This way Crosby is distracted the entire game, thinking that MP is a mite he can offer a ride home after the game. The truth is in the stache.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | December 23, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

If there is any weakness it is they really do not have six top line forwards but the way Crosby and Malkin are playing they could put me on the ice and make me look like a pro.

Posted by: PhilR | December 23, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

@PhilR

I agree that the Pens have a scary team this season...but they are going to have to be lucky, b/c they were not playing well when they were all injures, so if they go through another bout of injuries they might struggle...they have virtually no cap room left.

My Keys to the game:
-responsible D...lots of pressure
-nuetralize Crosby
-screen the H-E-double hockey sticks out of MAF

Posted by: capscoach | December 23, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Pens weakness was expected to be scoring from the top forwards. Solid D and best in hockey at C and strong on bottom two lines.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | December 23, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

@ Caps Coach -
Pens weakness is consistency in goal and consistency in secondary scoring, particularly from the wings. MAF plays out of his mind for stretches and then looks as if he needs to be shipped out to WBS. They're in a great stretch right now so they look fantastic, but earlier in the year Pens fans and media were calling for Bylsma's job just like people were calling for BB's job last week.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | December 23, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I think this game will be a good test of the Caps character. We just came off a huge slump and seem to be headed in the right direction. This is the winter classic preview and HBO is in the house. If the boys can't revved up to play 60 in this one, there is a major problem with the heart and soul of this team.

Go caps!!! Win and end crosby's streak tonite.

Posted by: Dizruption | December 23, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

So no one answered before...every team has a weakness...what is the Pens?

Posted by: capscoach | December 23, 2010 12:13 PM

Move them to Washington and our illustrious analyst will find millions of weakness before they lace their skates.

Posted by: hock1 | December 23, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I think the Pens D can be taken in one-on-one situations, especially on the rush.

Letang, Goligoski, Martin and Orpik are suceptible on the rush. Letang is improving but I think Ovie will beat him a few times in one-on-one sitations that lead to good scoring chances.

Orpik is great in the corners and is physical, but he often gets beat on the rush. So I think Ovie, Semin, Backstrom, Fehr, etc. need to use their skills on rushes into the zone.

In addition, the Caps need to get in front of the net. Except for Orpik, the Pens don't really have a crease clearing D-man. So once the Caps get in on a forecheck they need to crash the net hard(hopefully Fehr will keep up his play from the previous few games and Ovie will continue going to the net hard once a forecheck is established).

Posted by: sgm3 | December 23, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

In addition, the Caps need to get in front of the net.
----------------

Of course they NEED to do that against every team but will they???

We all know the answer to that question, don't we??

Posted by: joek443 | December 23, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Of course they NEED to do that against every team but will they???

We all know the answer to that question, don't we??

Posted by: joek443


I think the answer is yes. They have done so the last few games, and did so in the losses to Boston and Anaheim.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

@Joek, as @sgm pointed out, the Caps have been doing so. You need look no further than Tuesday night; Gordon, Knuble, Beagle, and, and -- which was the other non-Carlson goal? -- all scored from the crease.

Posted by: Justafan | December 23, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I think the answer is yes. They have done so the last few games, and did so in the losses to Boston and Anaheim.
-----------------------------

With all due respect aren't you the one who said yesterday that we need to see more than the first 35 games of the season before crowning Crosby as the best in the league??

Now after just a couple games you conclude that the Caps are now gonna crash the net every game???

Posted by: joek443 | December 23, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect aren't you the one who said yesterday that we need to see more than the first 35 games of the season before crowning Crosby as the best in the league??

Now after just a couple games you conclude that the Caps are now gonna crash the net every game???

Posted by: joek443 | December 23, 2010 1:09 PM

IIRC the '35 gam'e was in reference to saying crosby is the best for the year - 35 games does not make a season. the way he is trending now - there will be no contest - he's the best.
in the context of how the caps are trending as far as going to the crease - then yes - one could expect them to do so again after a couple of games

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 23, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Amendment to my last comment -- the fourth goal scored from the crease was Chimera's awesome breakaway, not the result of crashing the crease, per se, but the other three goals were.

Tuesday night, from where I sit just behind goal in the 1st and third, the Caps were well-established in the crease all night, including Ovi on the PP. It was clearly part of the game plan against BOS and OTT too.

Yes, @joek, they haven't been doing it all season, but where they've consistently done so the last few games with success, I don't know why you'd think they'd stop doing so now.

Posted by: Justafan | December 23, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

we need to see a pattern of crashing the net, not just the last two games. Do we have the personnel to do it consistantly?
We also need our D to clear our crease. It's just so frustrating to see our goalie, our goalie for cripes sake, be the guy responsible for clearing his crease! It's gotten to the point where it appears that they're being coached to play that way...unbelievable. Is it that GMGM is just not capable of getting the right personnel?

Posted by: scmonty1 | December 23, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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