HockeyStL: Halak nearing a return

HockeyStL: Halak nearing a return

Credit: UPI

St. Louis Blues Wade Rudden (6) uses his stick to stop Edmonton Oilers Ryan Jones from pushing the puck past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak during the third period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 26, 2013. Edmonton won the game 3-0. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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by Andrew Allsman / Hockey StL writer

KMOV.com

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 11:53 PM

 (HockeyStL) -- The Blues clinched their second consecutive playoff berth on Tuesday evening with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. With just two games remaining in the season, the Blues are currently in a battle for fourth place in the Western Conference.

 
 If the Blues can earn the fourth seed, they will have home-ice advantage in the first round. 
 
With that in mind, head coach Ken Hitchcock had some good news after Tuesday’s game regarding Jaroslav Halak.
 
“Jaro will be ready for the playoffs,” Hitchcock said.
 
Halak has been sidelined on multiple occasions this season due to recurring groin problems. His most recent injury has sidelined the goaltender for more than three weeks. 
 
It appears that he could be back in the near future, though it is up to Halak to let Hitchcock know when he is comfortable.
 
“It’s one day at a time right now,” said Hitchcock in a video posted on the Blues’ website. “He’s got to be comfortable to go in if there is an injury or something.  Right now he hasn’t given us that sign. We are hoping for it in the next day or two.”
 
The Blues’ season ends on Saturday, and the playoffs will begin the following week. It is possible that the Blues will want Halak to play in one of the two remaining games before trusting him in the playoffs.
 
 If this is indeed the case, Halak will be in net on Saturday as Hitchcock has already announced that Brian Elliott will be playing in Thursday’s game. Hitchcock, however, says there is no plan at this point.
 
“It’s his call whether he’s ready to back up or not before even thinking of playing,” he said. “Right now our focus is on Elliott and Allen and as soon as Jaro says he’s ready to join, he will take (Allen’s) place.”
 
Halak is 6-5-1 on the season with a .899 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average. Halak was beginning to look like his old self before his most recent injury. Since Halak’s injury, Brian Elliott has started the bulk of the games. Elliott has caught fire and is 9-2 in April. Elliott has three shutouts this month as well. It will be hard to turn the reins over to Halak with Elliott as hot as he has been of late.
 
Halak has more playoff experience than Elliott, which could play a role if a decision between the two has to be made. In 2010, Halak led the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Finals, Halak was the surprise of the playoffs.
 
 His record was 9-9, but his save percentage was a strong .923 and Halak played 1,013 minutes as he and the Canadiens defeated Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, and Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Halak also played in two games with the Blues in last year’s playoffs, but was unable to play for the rest of the playoffs due to a lower-body injury.
 
If Halak is indeed ready for the playoffs, it will be a welcome sight.
 
 
 
 

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