InGoal Update: Caps Neuvirth leaves game after piece of mask hits eye
… Oilers’ Khabibulin just back from similar eye scare. Plus Ray Emery back in Anaheim after AHL weekend; Sabres stick with AHL call up Enroth while Miller rests and Lalime stays on bench; and more in the return of the InGoal Daily Update
Watching from the Tampa Bay bench, Lightning backup Mike Smith might have feared the worst when Capitals counterpart Braden Holtby came out to start the second period after Washington starter Michael Neuvirth took a shot off the mask in the first.
Smith, after all, knows all too well the hazards of pucks off the mask, having suffered a serious concussion from one a few years ago.
Turns out Neuvirth wasn’t concussed. Instead he suffered the second strange eye injury by a goalie in as many weeks.
According to coach Bruce Boudreau, a piece of Neuvirth’s mask ended up in his eye after a shot by Nate Thompson hit him flush and jarred the mask loose just 23 seconds into the game (video below). Boudreau said it took a while to get the “metal” debris (so likely a part of the cage or hardware that holds it on) out of Neuvirth’s eye, but the 22-year-old was expected to be fine in time for Washington’s next game, Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Michal’s fine,” Boudreau said after the game, though he stayed off the ice Tuesday morning to get treatment. “Some part of the metal around his mask went into his eye, and he couldn’t get it out. But he got it out, and he was fine after that. He’s going to be OK.”
That’s good news for Capitals, since goalie Semyon Varlamov isn’t travelling with the team and the Washington Post Semyon reported that he will likely be out another week with a knee injury. Current backup Braden Holtby is also just returning from a knee injury, though there were no signs of rust during an often spectacular relief appearance on Monday (more on that below).
It’s also a strange coincidence, since Oilers veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, who was expected to start Wednesday in Washington, is also just coming back from a similarly odd eye injury suffered a few weeks earlier.
“I’ve never had that happen to me before,” Khabibulin told the Edmonton Sun. “I stopped a shot low to the stick side and I felt something hit me in the eye. It was sore for a couple of minutes and then it kind of went away. My vision got kind of blurry and I thought it would go away, but it didn’t. It felt as though I was looking through some plastic tape. I could see everything, it just wasn’t very clear.”
Khabibulin originally tried to play through it after consulting doctors on the road, but when it didn’t get better more tests back in Edmonton revealed some bleeding behind his eye, forcing him to rest completely for a few days while it healed.
“I think it’s similar to a bruise in the back of your eye,” Khabibulin said. “I’m better now. I just need a couple of days to get my wind back. When you go through six days of completely doing nothing, it’s hard the first couple of days.”
Emery back in Anaheim after short warm-up stint in the AHL
Ray Emery is back in the NHL. Again. But there’s still no assurances he will get his first start in over a year, not with Dan Ellis 3-1-1 since arriving in a trade from Tampa Bay. (Though after some of the three goals against the last two games, Anaheim may consider Emery and there have been some rumblings he will start Wednesday against the visiting Rangers or Friday in Colorado).
With No.1 Jonas Hiller still out with what has been diagnosed (by the Ducks at least) as vertigo and no timeline for a return despite stopping practice pucks, Emery’s future remains up in the air as he continues his remarkable comeback from a career-threatening disease that ate away the top his femur inside his hip joint. Emery has already shown he is more than ready to play in the AHL, stopping 67 of 69 shots to win on consecutive nights for Syracuse after being sent down over the weekend.
“I feel really good,” Emery told reporter Lindsay Kramer of the Syracuse Post-Standard. “I feel it was good to get a couple games in. It went well. I had a few things I wanted to work on, tracking the puck, rebound control, playing the puck. I think I did that.”
Emery also told The Post-Standard he isn’t worried about whether or not he’ll play anytime soon in the NHL, or even ending up back in the AHL full time if or when Hiller comes back:
“This is a long-term thing that I’m trying to do,” he said. “That’s the way I take it from the start. I’m not looking for short-term success. I’m looking for long-term success. I always want to play. I always want to do well. One of the things I’ve learned the past few years is to have short-term goals and to use them to get long-term goals.”
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Emery’s new Ducks’ color co-ordinated equipment and mask.
Veteran Lalime stuck opening door to bench – for both Miller and Enroth
Patrick Lalime is doing a good job helping overworked Buffalo Sabres star Ryan Miller get some extra time off.
Just not by actually playing.
As he does when Miller starts, Lalime is stuck on the bench when Miller gets a rare day off, watching Swedish prospect Jhonas Enroth play instead after getting called up from Portland in the AHL. It’s a set up the Sabres first used to get Miller a complete mental break back on Feb. 15, shortly after the US Olympic standout melted down in a confrontation with the media following his 31st-straight start.
Enroth, who also played during an earlier call up while Miller was hurt, can expect to see more sporadic starts between AHL stints between now and the end of the season because Buffalo has six sets of back-to-backs left while battling for a playoff spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and Lalime, who is 0-5 this year, hasn’t started a game since Nov. 20.
So far the Swedish rookie has responded well, making up for a lack of size (he’s listed at 5-foot-10) by showing off mental toughness, not only winning four times under tough circumstances, but doing so in extra time. The 22-year-old won his first three games in a shootout, an NHL record for the first three victories, before making 24 saves Sunday to beat Minnesota in overtime.
Enroth, who is 4-2-1 overall, didn’t need a shootout for win No.4, but had to stop Andrew Brunette in alone in the final six minutes.
“I didn’t have any time to think about it after it bounced funny from the boards,” Enroth, who does a nice job of getting out early and match the shooters approaching speed in one-on-one situations told the Buffalo News after. “I thought I had him.”
Speaking of great fill-in work, back to Holtby …
… the fleet-footed Capitals prospect hadn’t played since injuring his knee in an AHL game Feb. 23, but had no trouble getting thrown into the fire following Neuvirth’s injury despite going almost two weeks between games, stopping all 21 shots in a 2-1 shootout win.
“It’s one of the tougher things to do,” Holtby told NHL.com of entering the game cold. “But you have so much adrenalin, especially at this level, that when you get told you’re going in that you usually feed off that and then just hope for the best, try and battle as hard as you can, and hopefully the pucks hit you.”
Holtby, whose lateral recoveries from his knees may be the fastest in the NHL (see second video below), admitted it helped when Steven Stamkos hit the post early and the Lightning just started throwing shots at the net, allowing him to get a feel for the puck. He also got a break when a second goal was waved off because the referee ruled he had been interfered with in a scramble, but that was only after making a remarkable visually attached stick save to take away an empty net from a shocked Simon Gagne earlier:
Holtby also showed off his impressive foot speed on this save sequence in overtime:
And after being guilty of biting hard on fakes and sliding out of position during a shootout loss to the New York Rangers in his last NHL game way back on Jan. 24, the 21-year-old stopper from Saskatchewan showed he had learned from his last mistake, patiently waiting out all three Lightning shooters before throwing out a pad to stop them, including Vincent Lecavalier in the final round:
“I think you can learn from any mistake that you make and that night [against New York] I made a lot in the shootout,” Holtby told the Washington Post. “So I got a little bit of help in that, in order to make sure I was more patient. When I went back down to Hershey I really worked on my shootouts and breakaways to make sure I was better next time.”