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Neuvirth set to start third straight game

Rookie Michal Neuvirth will make his third straight start tonight as the Caps battle the NHL-leading Devils at Verizon Center.

It's a breakthrough for Neuvirth, who has won two in a row and is starting to look like the top-notch prospect the Caps consider him to be. But, as you might imagine, not everyone is happy about Coach Bruce Boudreau's decision.

Jose Theodore snapped his stick blade when he came off the ice and then offered, "I just work here" as he pulled off his pads. The veteran has not played since a 3-2 loss in Vancouver eight days ago, but insisted that he's not hurt and is ready to go.

"I'm ready to play, but you're not asking the right guy," said Theodore, who is 4-2-0 in his last six games with a solid .918 save percentage and a 2.33 goals against average ion those starts. "I don't know, man. I'm just practicing hard. I'm ready to go. But it's always been the coach's decision, and if they feel like that, they're going to make the call. I'm just going to keep working hard and be a good teammate."

When asked why he's going back to Neuvirth, Coach Bruce Boudreau said the 21-year-old earned another start with his recent play. He also said Theodore would play Monday against Carolina.

Neuvirth has "won two in a row and I thought he would be better suited [after] having a couple of days off and coming back, because he played last," Boudreau said.

As for Theodore, "you take a couple days off," the coach added, "it's tougher to be sharp right off the bat. Players like to play. But I'm going to think what's best for the team in certain situations, that's what I'm thinking."

Boudreau also might have been thinking back to the last time Theodore faced New Jersey. The Devils scored five goals on their first 18 shots en route to a 5-2 victory, their third in three games against the Caps this season.

Neuvirth, meantime, has earned the playing time. In his back-to-back wins, he has posted a 2.00 goals against and a .935 save percentage.

It's also looking like his stay in Washington might end up being a little bit longer than originally expected, too. Semyon Varlamov, one day after making Russia's Olympic team, was limited to skating drills this morning, which could be an indication that his strained groin muscle is coming along slower than anticipated.

Here are a few additional notes and quotes from this morning's pre-game skate:

*Not only are the defensive-minded Devils on top of the NHL standings with 53 points (that's tied with the Penguins and one point ahead of the Caps), they've won 12 of their last 14 and 9 of 10 behind goalie Martin Brodeur, who isn't showing any signs of decline at 37.

In his last start, Brodeur, who boasts a .210 goals against average and .921 save percentage, broke Terry Sawchuk's career shutout record. Brodeur blanked the Penguins 4-0 to pick up the 104th shutout of his career.

*As I mentioned earlier, it was a good news/bad news day for Varlamov. He's clearly growing frustrated with his injury. But, at the same time, he was thrilled to make Team Russia.

"It was a big surprise for me," Varlamov said. "This will be great experience for me. .It doesn't matter for me if I'm first goalie, second goalie. I'm just so excited to go to Olympics."

*Sounds like the lineup will be much the same as it was Wednesday. But it's unclear which two defensemen will be healthy scratches. With nine on the roster (Brian Pothier is hurt) only Tyler Sloan stayed out for extra work.

*Nicklas Backstrom, who has scored 10 goals in his past 11 games, needs only a point to get to 200 for his career.

*GM George McPhee is refereeing his young son's scrimmage here at KCI right now. So far, he's called a good game. Even sent his son to the box once.

I'll check in with a lineup later.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  December 26, 2009; 12:12 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Varlamov joins Ovechkin, Semin on Russian squad
Next: Poti injured, out tonight vs. New Jersey


Theo must be pretty mad, but you know what, he has been given COUNTLESS opportunities to have full control of the starting role and has continually dropped the ball with inconsistent play. I am a Theo fan, but I can certainly understand why the team is limiting his starts; he'll be gone after this year, and Neuvy and Varly are the future between the pipes in DC, so it's good to get them some experience.

Also, if my own math is correct (which is chancy) Ovechkin is currently at 464 career points. I feel like the countdown to 500 has officially begun!

Posted by: Aldred15 | December 26, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Neuvirth starting is a surprise, but not disappointing...

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

good luck nuevy! and wow theo's comment kinda harsh, oh well. he's lucky we play him as much as we do. i love you theo but ya ur gone this summer

Posted by: capsfan387 | December 26, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

It's good to see Jose a little pissed. He'll be ready to play.

Posted by: Landshark | December 26, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It's clear Boudreau wants to see if Neuvirth is able to handle the pressure. Could it be that Valamov's injury is worst than reported or Theo could be traded by March?

Posted by: guer_j | December 26, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Given that Neuwirth is up here for a limited time due to Varlamov's injury, it makes some sense to maximize his playing time to see how he does against the NHL instead of trying to project his NHL performance against AHL players. As we've seen with a couple of the AHL callups, it's a completely different league and skill set required.

Posted by: MikeF703 | December 26, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Could it be the Caps want to dump the 4.5 mil before the deadline and add 4.5 mil of rental to the D?

Posted by: SA-Town | December 26, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

maybe they want to "showcase" Theo for a trade a start against the Canes is best case for him

Posted by: heathdog1119 | December 26, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I won't pity Theo in the least. Every time BB gives him a start, he manages to let in weak goals. The opposing teams must literally drool when they come out of the tunnel and see #60 in goal.

The team plays worse with him in goal because they have to babysit him a lot more than the kids in goal.

So, let Theo get mad or whiney, as another wrote before, he's had ample chances to lock up the #1 goalie job all season and he's failed miserably. Ranked 36th in GAA and 37th in Sv% is not going to make anyone feel warm and fuzzy with him in goal. Whatever anger he might feel, he's created his own stats and should look in the mirror to understand why he's not in goal tonight. Oh yea, he's 6-14-2 lifetime against the Devils, could be another reason why he's not playing.

RocD :)

Posted by: expert47 | December 26, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Theo has had a good season other than a few breakdowns. Nothing against Neuvirth, but Theo should have started tonight. Now that Nylander is "gone", this team doesn't need another controversy...

Posted by: kcbrichmond | December 26, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Is Theo becoming the next Nyls?

Posted by: beeman | December 26, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

This isn't a controversy. Theo is just being competitive, nothing wrong with that. If you haven't noticed we have 9 defensemen... That is more of an issue than Theo being upset he isn't starting vs the Devils.

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I hope they do not trade Theo. He does an adequate job when put in. As long as he is a good locker room guy, it will be very valuable to have his experience and depth, especially going into the playoffs. I would not mind seeing him be the backup for every game from here on, rotating Neuvy back and forth from Hershey depending on VarLAmov. Sure that is not realistic and would anger ThreeOrMore, but would be the best for the maturation of our future goalies. And, as we well know, depth, at all positions, is essential.

Posted by: crooks_c | December 26, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I think some of you are reading too much in to this. Mikey will be going back to Hershey as soon as Varly's ready, so BB just wants to get a good look at him against a strong team.
Of course Theo is pissed about it. He's a competitive guy...they all are. None of them like to sit. They all think they can play every minute of every game. Theo will play Monday and he'll be fine (although I was kind of hoping for Varly on Monday since I'll actually be at the game for once.)

Posted by: tess2201 | December 26, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Anyone know if Boyd Gordon has indeed been sent to Hershey this weekend for a conditioning stint? It was mentioned a little while ago that Caps were thinking of sending him to Hershey this weekend, but I haven't heard anything about it since. Thanks!

Good luck to Nuevy tonight! The D have really been playing a strong game in front of him his past two wins, hope that trend continues tonight!

Go Caps!

Posted by: The_Stanley_Caps | December 26, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Was it just my paranoia kicking in that made me wonder if this is a trade audition for Neuvy?

On the other hand, if Varly is at all at risk for injury and Theo (a veteran they couldn't possibly get rid of) is, umm, porous, they have to keep Neuvy in their back pocket.

Can't wait for tonight, crowd needs to ROCK!

Posted by: bluejeener1 | December 26, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Ya know, it could be anything. They could be gunning to get rid of Jose or Neuvy or no one at all! It could be that BB wants to see what Neuvy could do against one of the best teams in the league and, seeing as the Caps are doing so well in the standings, can afford to risk a game for such an experiment. Or it could be due to the reasons that he said himself! Who knows. Regardless, these are good problems to have ... and I, for one, will be curious to see what Neuvy can do against NJ. As far as Jose is concerned, he should be able to shine big time against the Canes. He has the power to write his own story at this point.

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Agree with most of you about Theo - he's mad - want's to get in and play. His opportunity will come. And if it's Monday so be it. It doesn't matter if it's NJ or CAR - he'll get his chance and no matter how frustrated he might sound - if he goes out and plays like crap - well he's got no room to moan and groan anymore.

I love the call for Neuvy to be back in the net tonight. It only gives him another chance to far a great team. Should be a good one.

DROP THE DAMN PUCK ALREADY. Let's go Caps. Let's go Caps. Let's go Caps.

Hope everyone had a great Xmas whether you celebrated it or not. :)

Posted by: Jonathan6 | December 26, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I was at that game in Jersey 6 weeks ago, and Theo was just terrible. Everything the Devils shot went in that night. When you give up 5 goals on 22 shots, that team has your number. I 100 % agree with Boudreau's decision to stert Neuvy over Theo. Stop crying Theo.

Posted by: rozey57 | December 26, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I'd be pissed if I were Jose too, but Neuvy deserves it.

In case anyone cares I've just completed a monumental task resembling a dissertation on the Russian Olympic squad for Bleacher Report.

Sheesh. Now I can go eat and get ready to watch the first WJC game on NHL Network, before tonight's Caps game.

Posted by: ranndino | December 26, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I am glad Nuevy is playing. We need to get a feel for where he is he going to be ready for the #2 spot next year? Or will we need to extend Theo's contract (plese no!) The whole point of gettingTheo was to allow our 2 prospects to develope. Nuevy needs to prove he can be consistent and is ready for a full time NHL career.

Posted by: capscoach | December 26, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Alright... I am a GIANT varly fan but i just cant see it good for the team to keep him if he gets injured so consistently. I wouldnt be surprised if they either traded him for a strong #1 goalie and made neuvy backup or if they traded theo and maybe even neuvy for a very very solid back-up for when varly is hurt.

Posted by: nickiefan83 | December 26, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I say we take back Johnson!

Posted by: capscoach | December 26, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I think it is early to call Varly severly injury prone...two injuries intwo yars, but differt body parts. I feel like almost all goalies miss a bit of time durring the season due to injury. He may be accident prne, but don't think there has been enough evidence yet. Groins just take a bit to heal.

Posted by: capscoach | December 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't think there is a market for Theodore. Who trades for a goalie at the deadline? A team that is making a playoff run and needs better goaltending. Then why trade for Theodore? Why give up assets for him?

I don't think Theo is going anywhere. Neuvirth is here only because of an injury to Varly.

I expect Varly and Neuvy to be our 1 and 2 goalies next season. Especially because of their contracts, and all the people we have to resign.

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

@ranndino - Good article. Do you have any thoughts on the prospects of Volchenkov coming to the Caps later this year?

Posted by: zmega | December 26, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I think it is early to call Varly severly injury prone...two injuries intwo yars, but differt body parts. I feel like almost all goalies miss a bit of time durring the season due to injury. He may be accident prne, but don't think there has been enough evidence yet. Groins just take a bit to heal.

Posted by: capscoach | December 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

even previous to those years he has a history of injuries though

Posted by: nickiefan83 | December 26, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Stefan Della-Rovere on the tube now on NHL Network... WJC.

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

If Volchenkov comes to the Caps then this team will be unreal. He is an amazing, amazing player and I love his toughness. Anyone who can take a Malkin slapshot off the face and play the next game is awesome. I haven't heard a Volchenkov-Caps rumour before, is there a source for this? Or just speculation?

Posted by: Aldred15 | December 26, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

"I expect Varly and Neuvy to be our 1 and 2 goalies next season."

No doubt.

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

SDR with an assist... With some serious fore-checking

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone tell me how I can watch the game tonight on the Internet? I am with the inlaws that regretfully do not have CSN. However, we do appear to have a good high-speed Internet connection. Any advice is welcome.

Posted by: crooks_c | December 26, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I was watching the WJC but gave up. 4-0 after a few minutes. The Latvians are really bad. Not as lopsided as Christians vs the Lions but almost.

And that's the last time the Lions were any good.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 26, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

SDR is playing like a 10 year vet, smart & clever passes, hustle, laying big hits...

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Caps have to play Neuvy as much as possible. Jose's contract is up and they will be looking to trade him soon, if they think Neuvy is ready to back up Varly in the playoffs. They want to be able to get something in return for Jose, instead of keeping him through the playoffs and losing him to UFA for nothing. Jose's never been more than a stop-gap for the Caps until the prospects are ready.

Posted by: farmgirl19C | December 26, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Lots of players end their contracts as UFA's in the summer and not at the TDL, actually the majority of them do.

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Jschon, there should be a market for theo just as there wad a market for Huet two years ago when we got him. Just a matter of what you get in return. If we lose him as a ufa we get squadoosh. Doubt we'd trade him to an eastern team, but a western team who might have an injury or sub standard keeper. Question is, do we want to go with neuvy as a backup I'm the playoffs. I think
that is what bb is trying to find out by startinghim tonight.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Cristobal Huet also had a 2.55gaa and .916svp. Theodore does not.

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

US Mail truck just brought a white Varly #40 to the house. Yippee!

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 26, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Who is going to want Theo (4.5 million) when guys like Halak (.775 million), Biron (1.4 million), Hedberg ( 1.087 million), Lehtonen (3 million), Harding (1.1 million) and MAYBE Hiller (1.4 million) are all rumoured to be available? Halak and Harding have both said they want to be moved, and one would think that Atlanta will be dishing a goalie when Lehtonen is back and NYI will as well when the Bandaid Dipietro returns. Anyways, my point is, why pay 4.5 million for a goaltender who has been insanely inconsistent when you can get one of these other guys? Theo will likely not be traded, especially at the deadline because, in all honesty, no contending team will want him. The guys I mentioned are all younger, cheaper and, for the most part, have better numbers than Jose

Posted by: Aldred15 | December 26, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Yah, what Aldred15 said.

Posted by: JSchon | December 26, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I doubt Theo is traded BECAUSE he will be a UFA this summer. Any team that trades for someone in a contract year is effectively getting a rental until the end of the contract year -- as we saw with Huet.

IIRC, Bruce was surprised when GMGM told him we'd gotten Huet, which gives me the impression that Bruce probably isn't expecting to make any trade decisions. And since he wasn't certain putting in a goalie with six games of regular season experience would work out in last year's playoffs, I'd be surprised if he makes any decisions about the playoff roster based on tonight's game.

Posted by: miseaujeu | December 26, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Some of the recent contracts such Biron's were surprisingly low due in large part to the economic crisis. So it's not quite accurate to compare Biron's contract with Theo's or Huet's signed the year before.

Also IMO BB is throwing Neuvy out there in a big game to see what he can do. I also expect that he and Varly are our no. 1 and no. 2 next season. I'm excited to see him start.

However many of you are hard on Jose. He has put the team first and he is in a tough position. He knows that he is unlikely to be back but also needs consecutive games because this is a contract year for him. Of course he is frustrated and I think he will be strong against the Canes. He has been overall solid for us.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | December 26, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Varly and neuvy aren't the future in DC sorry to say, braden holtby will take over one of their spots and someone will be traded to make room for him

Posted by: Back2Bullets | December 31, 2009 3:32 AM | Report abuse

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