By Sky Kerstein

The Caps, who are on the outside looking in on the playoff chase, held an optional practice today as they have three days off before they play the first place Panthers in Florida on Friday in a huge Southeast Division game.  With the day’s off between games, the Caps announced today that they assigned goalie Braden Holtby and forwards Joel Rechlicz and Keith Aucoin to the AHL Hershey Bears today.

Aucoin had no points in five NHL games and Rechlicz played 1:30 last night and had a ten minute misconduct for saying some choice words to the Sharks yesterday.

Holtby played in his first NHL game of the season last night and stopped 30 shots last night in the Caps 5-3 loss to the Sharks.  Holtby was called up because Tomas Vokoun had the flu and was a surprise start yesterday.  Michal Neuvirth though thought he was starting and didn’t know until he got to the rink that he wasn’t.

“No, actually I thought the whole day I’m going to play. I show up for the game and find out I’m not,”  Neuvirth said.

“It is tough, but what can I do? At least if I knew Holtsy [Holtby] gonna get the start, but, you know, no one told me, so I was getting prepared for the game and when I show up, found out I was not playing, it was tough to swallow.”

Neuvirth did add nobody actually told him he was in, “No.  No one told me anything so I just figured I haven’t seen Tomas on the ice and I took the morning skate.  I just figured I was going to play.”

Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said they were “debating” all day on who to start yesterday but decided to go with Holtby.

“It’s one of those things where if he [Neuvirth] was standing on his head every night, would Braden be playing? No,”  Hunter said.  “It’s always judged by how you play.”

Holtby had to drive 2 1/2 hours yesterday before the game and played the night before in Hershey.

The Caps are 3-4-3 in their last ten and the players who took part in the optional practice today were: Vokoun, Neuvirth, Ward, Green, Erskine, Knuble, Beagle & Schultz.

Mike Knuble has been a healthy scratch the last three games and with the trade deadline fast approaching the Caps will have to make some decisions on him.

“You just show up and work hard and be ready for the next game, so, pretty elementary actually,”  Knuble said.   “If a player’s not going to be used or in the near future, if you don’t have plans, then that player probably wouldn’t want to be there.”

Knuble added that he hasn’t had any conversations about going anywhere else yet.

“You want to go somewhere where you’re going to play and going to contribute to your team,”  Knuble said.  “If you can’t do it in one place, then you gotta go.”

“We follow stats and he hasn’t got a point in the last 11 games or 10 games that he played, so he was a minus player,”  Hunter said on why he has benched Knuble the last three games.

When asked if Knuble will get back into the line-up, Hunter said, “You know he will eventually, it was a game-time decision, it’s always who plays the best and who doesn’t play well.”

Defenseman Mike Green continues to practice as he recovers from abdominal surgery on January 17th.

“I feel good, I really do, today was a great judging point for me for where I’m at, I feel good,”  Green said.  “Today I have a smile on my face, I haven’t felt like this for a long time.”

Nobody has made a decision yet on if Green will go on the upcoming four game road trip, but if Green had a decision he would.

“I would say I want to, but it’s not my decision right now,”  Green said.

Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Mike Knuble & Mike Green had to say following practice today.

Dale Hunter Practice Audio

Mike Knuble Practice Audio

Mike Green Practice Audio


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