When Washington hit town to face the Blues on Tuesday night — the Caps’ first visit in four years — many fans probably thought they would see Jaroslav Halak in goal. They didn’t.
In a conversation with Washington coach Adam Oates and goaltending coach Olie Kolzig, Halak indicated he was not quite up to facing his former teammates.
“It’s still too fresh,” Halak said after the Caps skated Tuesday morning at Scottrade Center. “Maybe if it was under different circumstances, like next year, you know. My mind would not be ...
Halak spent nearly four seasons with the Blues and combined with Brian Elliott to help the team win the Jennings Trophy in 2012. But on March 1, he was packaged with forward Chris Stewart in a trade to Buffalo that brought goaltender Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott to St. Louis.
Halak never played for Buffalo before being shipped along to Washington with a third-round pick in return for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla.
The 28-year old Halak is 4-4-3 with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage for Washington. On Monday, told the Washington media he “wasn’t happy” when he was traded and gave reporters the impression he was eager to face his former team.
They got the wrong impression. Braden Holtby was in goal against the Blues. It should be pointed out Holtby hardly seemed like a consolation choice. He faced the Blues in the teams’ previous meeting this season on Nov. 17 and made 46 saves in a 4-1 Capitals win at Verizon Center.
Oates knows what it’s like to be traded in-season. It happened to Oates in February 1992 when the Blues traded him to Boston for Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal. The teams met some five weeks later in Boston. Oates played that night, finishing minus-3 with no points.
For the record, the coach of a Capitals team still trying to get in the playoffs understood Halak’s position.
“I talked to Jaro about it because Olie (Kolzig) and I talked and both of us have been traded,” Oates said. “We know the feelings when you go into your old stomping ground. It’s not always easy and you’re not always comfortable, at least not the first time.
“We talked to him and you know what, he just wasn’t 100 percent comfortable. Unfortunately, this time of year and where we’re at, we can’t afford that. ‘Holts’ has played great lately, we feel really good about that, and ‘Holts’ is playing.”
Least anyone forget, Halak was in goal for almost half the Blues’ wins this season. He departed with a 24-9-4 mark and 2.23 GAA goals and .917 SP.
The Blues got a boost — spiritually if not otherwise – with forward Alexander Steen back in the lineup. Steen came into the game with a team-leading 33 goals and a share off the team lead with 60 points. T.J. Oshie also had 60 points.
Steen missed three games with an undisclosed upper-body injury. After the morning skate, Steen was understandably tight-lipped about his status. But in a media scrum, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock let it be known Steen was ready.
“He’ll play, he’s good to go,” Hitchcock said. “This is the player’s call and the trainer’s call. When they lean over the boards and said ‘I’m good to go,’ I think it’s my obligation (to put him in), considering he’s had an unbelievable year and he’s been our best player most nights.”