Embattled Veteran Likely To See Action As New York Continues Push For 8th Spot In Eastern Conference

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Jaroslav Halak is back in the NHL.

In a move many fans had been anticipating for a while, the Islanders recalled the veteran goaltender from AHL Bridgeport on Thursday.

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Halak is expected to join the team in Pittsburgh for the Islanders’ game Friday night. There was no immediate word on if he would make the start against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Halak was placed on waivers Dec. 30 after going just 6-8-5 with a 3.23 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 21 appearances this season. Likely due to his pricey contract, which includes a $4.5 million salary cap hit next season, Halak wasn’t claimed and was eventually optioned to Bridgeport, where he flourished, going 17-7-1 with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage.

Why the 31-year-old netminder stayed in the minors as long as he did has been open to debate. Halak and his agent appeared to anger Islanders management with their stance on the team’s three-goalie rotation, which it used from opening night until the time of Halak’s demotion. General manager Garth Snow reportedly tried numerous times to trade the 11-year veteran, but was unable to find the right deal.

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But now Halak is back, and, assuming he behaves himself, he should help the Islanders, who sit two points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining. New York faces a crucial back-to-back later this week with the game in Pittsburgh followed by a meeting with Boston at Barclays Center on Saturday.

Halak will likely spell starter Thomas Greiss, though he has always had the game to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. One thing is certain, however, his recall had as much to do with the Islanders’ lack of confidence in youngster Jean-Francois Berube as it did in Halak’s ability to perform in big situations.

Berube, who has made just 21 NHL appearances, including 13 starts, is 3-2-2 with an unsightly 3.42 GAA and .889 save percentage this season. Halak, on the other hand, is 206-123-42 with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage in 388 career appearances.

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The Islanders appear ready to go to war down the stretch with the Greiss-Halak tandem, which may not be the order they originally envisioned, but it still should give them a very good chance to win every night.