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Braden Holtby to face Blues; Jaroslav Halak not ‘comfortable’ facing former team

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

ST. LOUIS – A little over a month after he was traded by the Blues to the Buffalo Sabres, Jaroslav Halak returns to the city he played in for the past three and a half years. But he won’t start tonight against St. Louis.

Braden Holtby will start as the Capitals attempt to keep their slim postseason hopes alive because Halak wouldn’t be “comfortable” facing his former team, according to coach Adam Oates, who discussed the decision with goaltending coach Olie Kolzig.

“We know the feelings when you go into your old stomping ground and it’s not always easy and you’re not always comfortable, at least the first time,” Oates said. “We talked to [Halak] and he just wasn’t 100 percent comfortable. Unfortunately this time of year and where we’re at, we can’t afford that and Holts has played great lately. We feel really good about that and Holts is playing.”

As he was walking out of Scottrade Center following the morning skate, Halak confirmed Oates’s comments, stating that the trade was still “fresh” and he didn’t want that to impact his performance in the game.

Holtby faced the Blues in the teams’ only other meeting this season, recording 46 saves in a 4-1 win at Verizon Center on Nov. 17.

>> Dustin Penner will be back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s game against the Islanders with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

>> Brooks Laich (groin) made the trip to St. Louis with the team and worked out with the scratches and assistant coaches. Laich isn’t expected to be ready to play prior to the end of the regular season.

>> Blues leading goal scorer Alexander Steen is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the past three games with an upper-body injury.

>> Projected lineups for both teams:



Holtby, Halak.

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Derek Roy-Patrik Berglund-Jaden Schwartz
Brenden Morrow-Vladimir Sobotka-Steve Ott
Chris Porter/Magnus Paajarvi-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Roman Polak
Carlo Colaiacovo-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ryan Miller will start, Brian Elliott will back up.