Keith Kinkaid has plenty of reasons to be excited to join the Columbus Blue Jackets, perhaps none as enticing as this.
In seven career games against Columbus, Kinkaid has an 0-5-0 record and a 3.98 goals-against average. That's the most games without a win for Kinkaid against any team in the NHL.
"It's the team I have the hardest time getting a win against," he said Monday. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
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And that's what Kinkaid is doing, as the New Jersey Devils goalie was acquired by the Blue Jackets in exchange for a draft pick. The free agent-to-be will add depth at the goaltender spot to help guard against any potential injuries down the stretch.
The Farmingville, N.Y., native is 64-55-17 in his career with a 2.90 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. He was a key reason the Devils made the playoffs last year, but his numbers have taken a dip this year on a Devils team that has struggled as a whole, with Kinkaid at 15-18-6 with a 3.36 GAA and .891 save percentage in 41 games (38 starts).
It's the first time he's been traded from the only organization the Union College product has known as a professional, but the 29-year-old said he's ready to go with Columbus.
"I didn't know how to handle it at first, but I'm pretty excited to join the Blue Jackets organization, and I think it's a good opportunity for a fresh start for me," Kinkaid said. "It's been kind of an up-and-down year, and new faces, a new situation usually helps people. I'm pretty confident in my ability to play, so I'm not worried about that."
One of the main reasons for his excitement is the chance to return to the playoffs. A year ago, Kinkaid got his first taste of playoff hockey in six seasons, backstopping the Devils to a surprise postseason berth. With Cory Schneider injured down the stretch, Kinkaid was the team's No. 1 in February and March and was excellent while finishing the season 26-10-3 with a 2.77 GAA and .913 save percentage. He was at his best in March and April, turning aside .928 percent of shots and giving up just 35 goals in his last 15 appearances.
"That's really exciting," he said of the Jackets' playoff potential. "It's been a tough year here. Going on that run last year was very exciting, and going to the playoffs for the first time was outstanding. It's so fun. It's another level, so it's great to come to a team that wants you to be part of that."
Blue Jackets fans might also know him on Twitter as the king of emojis on his Twitter account @blockaid1. After Devils wins this season, Kinkaid would give an excited reaction to the victory complete shout out to his teammates using emojis.
"It's fun," he said. "I'm a Yankees fan, so I saw Didi Gregorius do his emoji recap after wins, so I figured that would work. I started that last year, and it's been fun. We'll figure out some emojis (with the Jackets) and have some fun. It's kind of my personality."
Kinkaid said he'll do whatever the Blue Jackets need of him down the stretch, and it seems likely he'll compete with Joonas Korpisalo for the backup job behind Sergei Bobrvosky.
"Kinkaid gives us an experienced guy who has been in the league and is an NHL goaltender," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He's one of the biggest reasons New Jersey made the playoffs last year, and I think he had the most wins in the league after a certain date. He was on a great run last year. ... He's a proven goaltedner at the National Hockey League level, and you need three of t hose type of guys on your depth chart."
That will require him arriving in Columbus first, and his plan is to drive from the East Coast to the capital city Monday afternoon. It's an eight-hour haul, but Kinkaid will have his girlfriend with him along the way.
The only concern? Fitting everything he'll need, including his hockey gear, into his sedan for the trip.
"We haven't put everything in yet, but I think that's gonna be the most difficult part of it," he said. "It's gonna be a struggle."