ANAHEIM, Calif. - Jack Capuano pulled Jaroslav Halak aside during the Islanders' flight to Denver last Wednesday to tell the goaltender why Chad Johnson was starting the next night.
"He's a guy who's very hard on himself," Capuano said. "I just wanted him to take a step back, relax, get back to having fun. It's no different than a pitcher or a quarterback. You need to be in a good frame of mind."
Halak was in that good space on Saturday night in San Jose despite the result. He had 28 saves, 16 in the first period, and looked as sharp as he has at any time this season.
Of course, the results are what matter, and Halak lost his third straight start, 3-1, to the Sharks.
"It was better than the games before, but there's still ways to be better," Halak said after the Islanders practiced at the Honda Center on Monday before facing the Ducks on Wednesday night. "We've lost three in a row and I know no one's happy about it. We have a good team so I know we can be better."
Halak struggled in his previous two starts, a 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Oct. 21 and a 4-3 loss to the Jets last Tuesday. Capuano opted to go with Johnson in the games after both those losses, including Thursday, when Johnson was not especially sharp and the Isles lost to the Avalanche, 5-0.
It's a safe bet that Halak will get the call on Wednesday night, though it remains to be seen if he will go back-to-back, with the Islanders facing the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
The goaltender had some support on the ice on Monday. Marc Champagne, Halak's offseason goalie coach, who was hired by the Islanders during the summer as a goaltending consultant, flew from Montreal to work with Halak and Johnson for a few days.
"Every game is different. Sometimes you win and play bad, sometimes you lose and play good," Halak said. "You can only think about the game until midnight; then it's on to the next game. That's how I take it."
Notes & quotes: Capuano juggled all his lines for Monday's practice, putting Nikolay Kulemin with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo after the Tavares-Okposo tandem (with Brock Nelson) was on for San Jose's winning goal. "When you're not scoring, you have to play good defense," Capuano said. "You need good pace to your game, not just on the offensive side of the puck." Anders Lee skated with Frans Nielsen and Mikhail Grabovski, Cory Conacher and Cal Clutterbuck flanked Nelson and Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Ryan Strome worked as a line.
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