In arguably the most important stretch of the season to date, the New York Islanders brought in reinforcement, recalling Jaroslav Halak from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Thursday morning.
Halak is expected to appear in one of the Islanders' next two games, a crucial back-to-back set against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. As of Thursday morning, the Islanders are two points behind the Bruins for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders have three total sets of back-to-back games in their last 10 games of the season.
"I'm happy to be back," Halak said after joining the Islanders for practice in Pittsburgh. "I'm just going to try to help the guys and we'll see what happens. I know we've got a crazy schedule coming up and any point is valuable for getting to the playoffs."
Halak was 6-8-5 with the Islanders this season with a 3.23 GAA and a .904 SV% prior to his assignment to Bridgeport on Dec. 31. In Bridgeport, Halak found his rhythm, posting a 17-7-3 record with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. The former NHL all-star was a top goalie in the American League, with the third-best GAA and the fourth-best SV%. He also won a Sound Tigers record 12 straight games from Jan. 20 to Feb. 19.
"He went down and found his game," Interim Coach Doug Weight said. "Every report I got was about how great his attitude was and how great he's playing and how great the team is playing in front of him. He's been a pro… He's gone down and did what he had to do and found his game and we're excited to have him back."
Halak backstopped the Sound Tigers into a playoff race and as of Thursday, Bridgeport is in a virtual tie with Providence for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
"I just wanted to make the most or best out of my time down there and help the guys at the same time while they tried to help me," Halak said. "I think they work hard, that's all I can tell you about them and it's a great group. I obviously wish them good luck the rest of the way and hope they make the playoffs."
Weight said he's open to having Halak start on Friday in Pittsburgh, but wants to see how Halak feels after a tough travel schedule that saw the goalie traverse from Albany to Bridgeport to Long Island to Pittsburgh. Halak just plans to go with the flow and wants to help contribute at a key time for the Islanders.
"I'm going to try to enjoy it," Halak said. "That's all you can do. I'm happy to be back in the NHL. Every night for us, for me, for whoever is in net we need to keep getting points. Tomorrow is obviously a big game, then going home to play Boston that we're trying to catch, that'll be an even bigger game. We just have to go game by game and everyone try to play hard and try to bring their best right now.