The Washington Capitals let Olaf Kolzig go in free agency after yet another subpar season that included a rough outing against the Chicago Blackhawks. So far, his replacement doesn’t look like much of an upgrade.
After Jose Theodore struggled in their season opener, the Capitals look to bounce back when they face the Blackhawks on Friday night in their home debut.
Washington greatly improved last season, going 43-31-8 before bowing out to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. In his 16th season with the Capitals, Kolzig was benched down the stretch after the acquisition of Cristobal Huet.
Kolzig, who allowed every goal in a 5-0 loss to Chicago on March 19, is now with Tampa Bay. Huet signed with Chicago as a free agent, and will likely start this game against his former team.
In need of a No. 1 goalie, the Capitals signed the 32-year-old Theodore to a two-year, $9 million contract in the offseason. He struggled in his Washington debut, though, giving up four goals before getting pulled in the second period of a 7-4 loss to Atlanta on Friday night.
Theodore stopped 13 of 17 shots.
“The last thing you want to do is pull your goalie on opening night,” said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who called the fourth goal allowed by Theodore “pretty weak.”
Theodore, who will likely be in net again, is 4-6-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average versus the Blackhawks.
Washington has lost three straight against Chicago since a 4-0 road win on Feb. 15, 2004. The Capitals are 0-1-1 against the Blackhawks at home since a 3-1 win on April 9, 2002.
Chicago found a way to stop Washington star Alex Ovechkin in the teams’ last meeting, and he was held without a point Friday.
Mike Green was the Capitals’ offensive star, scoring two goals on one power play in the second period while adding an assist. The third-year defenseman had a breakout season in 2007-08, setting career highs with 18 goals and 38 assists.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s Brian Campbell - who netted the biggest deal for a free-agent defenseman during the summer - assisted on a goal by reigning NHL Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane, but it wasn’t enough to help the Blackhawks avoid losing their season opener 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Friday night.
Campbell signed an eight-year, $57.12 million deal in the offseason. He has six assists in his last three games against the Capitals.
Huet, who was lured away from the Capitals with a four-year, $22.45 million deal, struggled in his Blackhawks debut, stopping 25 of 29 shots.
“I’m disappointed to lose the first game,” Huet said. “We made some mistakes and I didn’t help the team at the moment they needed me.”
Huet is 6-2-1 with a 2.45 GAA in nine games versus the Capitals. Former starter Nikolai Khabibulin may get a start in this game, having gone 8-5-0 with three ties and a 2.00 goals-against average in 20 games versus Washington.