After pulling off a major trade before Tuesday’s deadline in hopes of helping to make their first playoff appearance in five years, the Washington Capitals suddenly have three quality goaltenders on their roster. The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, are doing just fine with their one.
With newly acquired Cristobal Huet set to start, the Capitals try to move closer to the Southeast Division lead and pick up a rare win in New Jersey when they face the surging Devils on Friday.
Washington (29-27-8) hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003, but is just behind first-place Carolina in the Southwest. Despite being second in their division, the Capitals are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of the final playoff spot.
Believing that a move was necessary to make the postseason, Washington general manager George McPhee acquired the veteran Huet from Montreal on Tuesday.
Huet opened the season as the Canadiens’ top goalie. Now he joins Olie Kolzig, who has been Washington’s No. 1 goaltender for the last 10 seasons, and venerable backup Brent Johnson, who had been getting more playing time lately.
“We traded for a No. 1 goalie from Montreal. Now we’ve got two No. 1 goalies,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “And Brent has always been a tremendous support system and can play, and he’s going to do the same thing now.”
Boudreau has not decided how he will rotate his netminders, but announced Huet will start against New Jersey. Kolzig will be the backup and Johnson won’t even make the trip.
Huet stopped just 10 shots in a 4-3 Montreal victory over the Devils on Jan. 24, his only start of the season against them. He had lost his first six starts against New Jersey, posting a 3.29 goals-against average in those games.
Kolzig, 22-19-6 with a 2.98 GAA on the season, was surprised Washington not only decided to acquire another potential starting goalie, but also not trade him.
“What I’m shocked is that there are still three goalies here,” Kolzig said. “I’m still here. It’s not like I’m answering questions in Colorado or Phoenix.
“We’ve got 18 games left to get into the playoffs, and we’ll see what happens. There’s things in life and in hockey that are out of your control. It’s how you deal with it that separates you from other people. I’m going to continue to do my work, and, as I said the other day, if it’s not good enough, then there’ll be somebody else here to do it.”
Kolzig turned aside 34 shots in a 4-1 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday that snapped the Capitals’ three-game losing streak.
Brooks Laich had two goals and two assists, and has four goals in his last four games. Star forward Alex Ovechkin, though, was once again unable to find the back of the net.
Ovechkin leads the NHL with 48 goals, but hasn’t scored in a career high-tying six games. Ovechkin, who scored nine goals in the seven games immediately before his drought, doesn’t have a goal in the three contests against the Devils this season.
The Devils (37-21-6) won two of those three games, improving them to 9-2-0 against the Caps since the start of the 2005-06 season.
New Jersey defeated Washington 3-2 at the Prudential Center on Dec. 7, and has won eight of the last nine home meetings. The Devils, 7-1-1 at home since Feb. 2, are 19-6-1 against the Capitals in New Jersey since the start of the 1995-96 season.
While Washington’s goalie situation is unsettled, New Jersey’s is as clear as they come. Martin Brodeur has started the last 23 games for the Devils, and is 7-0-2 with a 1.74 GAA since Feb. 9.
Brodeur has been in net for each of New Jersey’s victories over the Capitals this season, and is 12-1-0 with one tie, one shutout and a 1.82 GAA in his last 14 starts against them.
Brodeur made 34 saves Tuesday, but New Jersey suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to Carolina that ended its five-game winning streak.
Center John Madden was held without a goal after scoring in each of his previous three games. Madden, who has 18 goals on the season, has scored in each of his last two games against the Capitals.