Welcome to the show, Zach Fucale. The Washington Capitals will see another rookie make their NHL debut, this time between the pipes.
Head coach Peter Laviolette announced that Zach Fucale will start on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. Ilya Samsonov will back up as Vitek Vanecek takes a maintenance day.
The Capitals recalled Fucale on Wednesday, and the 26-year-old made the road trip to Detroit and Columbus along with Vanecek and Samsonov. Laviolette had said the decision came as the team was assessing things in net and evaluating Vanecek, whose arm appeared to be hurting following a strange play in Monday’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Fucale didn’t know if he’d be playing and that the Capitals just told him the time for practice and to bring a suit. Regardless, he said he was ready for whatever situation was thrown his way and believes his work through multiple leagues, including the ECHL, AHL and DEL, is paying off.
“Yeah it’s been quite the journey for me. It’s been to a lot of different destinations, a lot of different games, Europe and back and a lot of stuff has happened. So I feel like the last few years have gone, been trending in the right direction,” Fucale said. “Yeah, I got a good thing going and I’m just sticking to my game and I feel like things are working well right now.”
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Montreal’s 2013 second-rounder has been working toward his NHL dream for some time, and since coming to Hershey, he has found his game with the Bears. He led the AHL with a 1.80 GAA last season and also ranked second with a .932 save percentage. He and Pheonix Copley combined to take home the AHL’s Harry “Hap” Holmes Award, given to the goaltenders on a team who allow the fewest goals per game in the regular season.
This year, he has carried over that momentum, going 3-0-2 with a 1.73 GAA and .933 save percentage so far for Hershey this season. He said that mental skills coaches and goalie coaches have helped him improve over the last few seasons. He also worked to subtract certain aspects from his game, which also led him to take a step forward.
“I just eliminated a lot of things I was thinking about during the games. Like, I didn’t do something new. It’s the things that I took out of my game I feel that made the biggest difference. So I simplified it a lot and it’s a lot of repetition of little things that make a difference for me. I’m just focused on the things that really bring me results and just repeat those and that’s it.
“…There was a lot of trial and error. I made a lot of mistakes, man,” Fucale added with a laugh. “I got scored a lot of goals before getting here. So that’s my biggest learning stuff. My mistakes I use.”
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Fucale will be the fifth Capitals player to make his NHL debut this season, joining Hendrix Lapierre, Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET. He will wear No. 60, the same number his idol and former Capitals netminder, Jose Theodore, wore.
“I feel like it’s coming in and all I have to do is just stay read… it’s been a long time coming for sure,” Fucale said.