BOSTON – Jaroslav Halak met up with his third team in less than a week here Thursday, but his first start as a Washington Capital won’t come against the Bruins at TD Garden.
Given the amount of travel and instability Halak has endured over the past few days, Coach Adam Oates has opted to start Braden Holtby for a seventh straight game and give the 28-year-old netminder a chance to settle in with his newest team. Holtby was pulled from Wednesday’s 6-4 loss in Philadelphia after allowing four goals on the first 18 shots.
“Hopefully we play better in front of Braden,” Oates said, referring to the Capitals’ four-shots of support they provided Holtby in Philadelphia. “He had a good game [in Boston] a few days ago the team played pretty solid that game as well. Hopefully we can draw on that and the second half of last night and have a good game.”
Over the past week, Halak has done little more than journey between teams. The St. Louis Blues were in Anaheim when they traded him to Buffalo on Feb. 28, so Halak took a the red-eye from California to the East Coast. He then went on the road with the Sabres to Dallas and on to Tampa.
On Wednesday after the trade to the Capitals was official, he flew from Tampa to Philadelphia and on to Boston. A highlight of the trip, though, was that Halak wound up on the same flight to Boston as fellow Slovakian Olympian defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who was traded from the Flyers to the Bruins Wednesday.
“It’s been weird. I’ve just been flying around without knowing where I’m going to end up,” Halak said after taking part in an optional skate with rookies and scratches in Boston on Thursday morning.
“I think it’s going to be easier to get to know the guys a little bit better and have a little more rest,” Halak said. “I’ve been flying a lot since the first trade and it hasn’t been easy. It’s hard not knowing, you can’t really focus on hockey. But I’m here now and ill be here until the rest of the season. I’m happy and hopefully I can help the guys get to the playoffs.”
While Halak doesn’t know any of his new teammates personally except for Mikhail Grabovski, whom he played with while part of the Montreal organization, he certainly knows what it’s like to face some of the Capitals. But Halak isn’t focusing on how he helped the Canadiens eliminate Washington back in 2010, instead he’s trying to reset for a push to the playoffs after spending this season with the Blues who own the second-best record in the NHL.
“You trying to build something with a team, trying to get to the playoffs and win the games and then you get dealt during the season. That’s really hard. I didn’t think it was going to be that hard but now that I’ve been traded I know how other guys feel all the time when they get traded. It sucks. I’m not going to lie it’s not easy to be traded,” said Halak, who reiterated that he’s glad to have an opportunity to reach the postseason again.
“It’s a new challenge for me personally,” Halak said. “I’m really happy they feel like I can help them. I’m going to do my best that I can every game.”