Goalie nods: Halak won’t face Blues, which raises eyebrows


News and notes from the blue paint…

Halak won’t face ex-mates

Jaroslav Halak won’t be in goal for Washington tonight when the Caps try to keep their playoff hopes alive against Halak’s ex-team, the St. Louis Blues.

The reason why Halak’s been passed over in favor of Braden Holtby, though, remains a mystery.

A piece on CSN Washington suggested Halak was keen to face his old club — “I played there four years, I know these guys,” he said. “Obviously, I’m looking forward to going back there,” — but in explaining his decision to start Holtby, Caps head coach Adam Oates suggested the Slovakian netminder actually asked out of the start:

Considering Halak’s been Washington’s goalie of record in 11 of the last 14 games, going with Holtby in tonight’s must-win situation is curious. That said, Holtby did snap the Caps’ five-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout decision over the Islanders on Saturday.


Red Wings at Sabres: Jimmy Howard vs. Matthew Hackett

Sens at Isles: Craig Anderson vs. Anders Nilsson

‘Canes at Rangers: Cam Ward vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Coyotes at Blue Jackets: Thomas Greiss vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Flyers at Panthers: Steve Mason vs. Roberto Luongo

Leafs at Lightning: James Reimer vs. Ben Bishop

Bruins at Wild: Tuukka Rask vs. Ilya Bryzgalov

Preds at Stars: Pekka Rinne vs. Kari Lehtonen

Avs at Oilers: J.S. Giguere vs. Ben Scrivens

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.