Braden Holtby to Start Against Flyers; Brooks Laich Optimistic on Recovery

After watching three of the Washington Capitals' past four games from the bench, Braden Holtby will return in goal against the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday.

"It's been too long," coach Adam Oates said. "He's had a chance to regroup a little bit and [I] expect a great game."

It will mark Holtby's first start since Dec. 10, when he allowed three goals on eight shots in only 11:07 against the Tampa Bay Lightning before Philipp Grubauer came on in relief. Holtby has only made it through one start in December without being pulled: a 34-save performance in a 5-2 victory against the Nashville Predators Dec. 7.

Meanwhile, forward Casey Wellman, recalled from the American Hockey League Tuesday morning, will likely slot into the lineup on the fourth line. The 26-year-old has scored seven goals and contributed 13 points in 23 games for the Hershey Bears. He will appear in his first NHL game since Jan. 19, 2012, when he was a member of the Minnesota Wild.

"I think I just need to make sure that I'm real structured because if you make a mistake here, usually it's capitalized on," Wellman said. "I think I've just got to make sure that I'm structured and focused and ready to go."

To make room for Wellman, Washington placed forward Michael Latta on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered against the Flyers on Sunday. Center Mikhail Grabovski will miss his second straight game with flu-like symptoms.

Here is the projected lineup for Washington:

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Eric Fehr - Martin Erat - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti - Casey Wellman - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - MIke Green

John Erskine - Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Brooks Laich, currently on long-term injured reserve with a groin injury, skated with the rest of his teammates for the second consecutive day. He has not played since Nov. 27. 

"How close to returning is tough for me to say timeline-wise," Laich said. "Skating is starting to feel a lot better. ... I still need more work. I need to explode more. I need to make some harder cuts, but that's coming. Today was a better day than yesterday and then the next step after that is contact and then a game."

Laich believes he has identified the source of his current ailment, which is centralized in his back. After conferring with team medical staff and doctors outside of the organization, Laich has been undergoing a new treatment that he feels has paid instant dividends. 

"I firmly believe that we’ve identified the source of the problem so moving forward it should be [easier]," Laich said. "Before we were trying to pick one of 15 things that could possibly be reflecting the pain to that area and now I think we’ve actually narrowed it down to the source of the problem, so treating it further down the road should be easier for us to prevent a relapse from occurring.”

The 30-year-old is eligible to return as soon as Dec. 22, but after inflicting unnecessary stress on himself by circling a specific return date while sidelined last season, he is taking a more patient approach.

"For me, it's not important to put a date on it," Laich said. "For me, it's important to be 100 percent when I come back. I can't come back at 70 percent, I can't come back at 80 percent. I need to be fully comfortable when I return because I don't want this to happen again."

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