When Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth returned to the United States after spending the NHL lockout playing in his native Czech Republic, goaltending coach Dave Prior noticed that he was suffering from a "European hangover."
No, not that kind of hangover.
"When I showed up, Dave knew right away I was playing too deep," Neuvirth said after the Caps' optional skate Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "I worked at it, the puck's hitting me, so that means I'm in the good positioning."
Other than taking shots in practice, Neuvirth hasn't had a chance to face NHL competition this season, but he will have his first opportunity to reacclimate himself Thursday when he will make his first start against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center.
"My thought was [Braden Holtby] is gonna start and he’s gonna start the home opener, but I've got to get Neuvy some games," head coach Adam Oates said. "So he gets his chance tomorrow."
Holtby allowed 10 goals in his first two starts in losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday and the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday. His goals against average and save percentage are a mediocre-at-best 5.04 and .863, respectively. Neuvirth will now step in and appear in his first game since New Year's Day while with HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga and his first NHL game since April 5.
"I feel cold, but, you know, this is job I pick and I gotta handle it," said Neuvirth, who is 4-1-0 all-time against the Canadiens. "I'm trying to stay positive and happy. I felt good during the practice today and I'm ready to go."
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