DENVER - Goaltending controversy?
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano decided to start Chad Johnson on Thursday night against the Avalanche. That will be Johnson's fourth start in 10 games. Jaroslav Halak struggled in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Jets, but Halak is the goaltender with the four-year, $18-million contract.
"He's in the right place, he's fine -- he's our guy," Capuano said of Halak, who has a 3-3-0 record, 3.51 goals-against average and .889 save percentage. "We just want him to take a step back and relax. We know how good he can be."
With a visit to the Sharks on Saturday, it's not likely that Halak will be sitting for long. Johnson is 3-0-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .891 save percentage, so there isn't a whole lot statistically between the two.
Nor is there real cause for alarm over Halak's slow start. His .906 even-strength save percentage is better than only three goaltenders in the league with at least six starts, so that's not good.
But here are some other notable goaltenders' even-strength save percentages so far this season: Ben Bishop is at .908, Henrik Lundqvist and Sergei Bobrovsky are at .907 and Tuukka Rask is at .905.
So yes, Halak needs to be better. But he hasn't lost his No. 1 goaltender role, even if Capuano has now decided to sit Halak after each of his last two shaky outings.
Lest we forget that Johnson, whose even-strength save percentage is .905, wasn't so great in the 7-5 win over the Stars last weekend.
Some other notes from the morning skates:
-- Travis Hamonic skated, and while Capuano said Hamonic was "real close" to playing, he'll sit out again. It's looking like Saturday for Hamonic's return. He was never on injured reserve, so there's no roster move necessary.
-- Josh Bailey (broken hand) also skated and will continue to skate and work on gripping a stick. Capuano said there's a chance Bailey could return by the end of the road trip, but being that Bailey's left hand is broken (the bottom hand on his stick), he might need some time to gain grip strength.
-- Veteran Daniel Briere is a healthy scratch for the Avs, who start Semyon Varlamov in goal. His EV save percentage is .900, in case you were wondering.
-- Jarome Iginla, who turned down four years and $22 million from the Isles for a three-year deal with Colorado, said he definitely gave the Isles serious consideration. "I talked to a few guys who said how much they liked living on Long Island. It had a lot of appeal," Iginla said. "It's a little bit slower pace out here. My family loved Boston, but we definitely don't mind that it's slower out here when it was time to make a change. You think [free agency] is going to be so exciting, but it can be tough to make these choices."
There's no guarantee that Garth Snow would have tried to sign both veteran forwards, but imagine what the Isles' forward group would look like with Iginla and Thomas Vanek rather than Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin.