Caps Turn to Vokoun in Key ContestPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Washington has taken two of three from the Bruins in the season’s series between the two clubs this season, including the last meeting here on March 10. The Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first in that one and held on for a 4-3 win. The Capitals hung five goals on the Bruins in a Jan. 24 game at Verizon Center, but Boston has allowed two or fewer goals in each of its last six games and has won five of six as a result. With a modest three-game winning streak, the Bruins are on their best run so far in calendar 2012. Realistically, the Caps need to go 4-1 the rest of the way and hope the Buffalo Sabres are a mere 3-2 during their final five. Assuming the Caps have such a thin margin of error (and knowing that even if they win all five remaining games they could still miss the playoffs), they don’t want to burn that loss here tonight in Beantown and be faced with the specter of winning each of their last four. As we’ve seen this season, it’s been a tall task for this club to string together clusters of wins. With a choice of three goaltenders – Tomas Vokoun, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby – in tonight’s game against the Bruins, Caps coach Dale Hunter has elected to go with Vokoun. For Vokoun, tonight’s game marks his first start in nearly two weeks as he has been laid up with a lower body injury for most of that time. His last win came here in Boston in that aforementioned March 10 game. With no more back-to-back games remaining for Washington this season, it’s not unreasonable to expect Vokoun to get each of the remaining starts. The Caps have run into a string of hot goaltenders this season, and now it’s time for one of their own to assume that role. The 35-year-old Vokoun signed a one-year deal with Washington last summer believing the Caps had a team that was primed to go deep into the playoffs. Vokoun had spent the previous four seasons with the Florida Panthers, missing out on the postseason in each of those campaigns. Now, the Panthers are on the verge of claiming the first division title in franchise history and their first playoff berth in a dozen years while Washington is embroiled in a battle for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Oh, the irony. Lifetime against the Bruins, Vokoun is 7-10-3 with two shutouts, a 2.66 GAA and a very good .926 save pct. In 10 career starts at TD Garden, Vokoun is 4-5-1 with a shutout, a 2.66 GAA and a .922 save pct. Tonight’s game marks the sixth time this season that Vokoun has come back into the Washington lineup after an absence of two or more consecutive starts. In the previous five times he has started under such circumstances this season, Vokoun is 4-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .930 save pct. The Caps called up Cody Eakin from AHL Hershey on Wednesday and he will be in the lineup tonight as Washington returns to a more traditional lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen for tonight’s game. The Capitals played with 11 forwards and seven blueliners in each of their previous two games. Sitting this one out tonight in Boston will be forwards Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern and defensemen Jeff Schultz and John Erskine. Ward has been out for a week with a lower body injury and Erskine is said to have a lower body injury as well although he has not played since Feb. 12. Halpern and Schultz will be healthy scratches. Center Nicklas Backstrom took the ice for the morning skate but won’t play tonight. He has been skating for more than two weeks now in his bid to return to the lineup from a Jan. 3 concussion suffered in a game against the Calgary Flames. On the Boston side of the equation, Tim Thomas (14-5-2, 2.49, .924 lifetime vs. Caps) will be in goal for the Bruins. Defenseman Dennis Seidenburg will miss this one because of injury, and he’ll be replaced in the Boston lineup by ex-Caps blueliner Joe Corvo.
Heading into Thursday's game with the Bruins in Boston, the Caps were faced with the discomforting knowledge that even if they won each of their five remaining games, they could be on the outside looking in when the Stanley Cup playoffs got underway on April 11. Just over 24 hours later, that is no