(AP) — Bringing aboard a player whose name conjures bad memories for the franchise, the Washington Capitals acquired Jaroslav Halak from the Buffalo Sabres in a swap of goalies at the NHL trade deadline Wednesday.
The Capitals sent backup goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla to Buffalo, which only acquired Halak last Friday in a deal with the St. Louis Blues. Washington picked up Klesla from the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
The Capitals also received a 2015 third-round draft pick in the trade with Buffalo, which is last in the NHL with 44 points.
Halak starred for Montreal in the 2010 playoffs, when the eighth-seeded Canadiens came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Presidents' Trophy-winning, top-seeded Capitals in the first round. In Game 7, Montreal won 2-1, as Halak made 41 saves.
"He's played well in Montreal. He's played well in St. Louis. And we hope he can come here and play well," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "He's a good goalie, and he can get hot."
Now Halak will try to help Alex Ovechkin's Capitals avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Capitals, who were scheduled to play at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, entered the day in 10th place in the Eastern Conference; the top eight teams make the postseason.
Right wing Ovechkin tops the NHL with 43 goals, and center Nicklas Backstrom is third with 48 assists. But Washington's defense has been a real problem: Only five of the other 29 teams in the NHL have allowed more goals this season.
So that led McPhee to the 28-year-old Halak, who went 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 40 games with the Blues this season. In eight NHL seasons with Montreal and St. Louis, he's appeared in 260 games, going 139-81-26 with a 2.38 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
Halak was in uniform for only one game with Buffalo, serving as a backup to Jhonas Enroth in a 3-2 loss at Dallas on Monday night.
In Washington, he will split time at goalie with Braden Holtby, who is 19-13-3 with a 2.94 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
"Both guys'll start games," McPhee said. "We'll see where it goes."
Neuvirth was 4-6-2 with a 2.82 GAA and .914 save percentage this season with the Capitals. He's played in 134 NHL games, all with Washington, going 59-41-13 with a 2.67 GAA.
"He wasn't happy being the No. 2 (goalie), and so we tried to accommodate him," McPhee said. "And we brought in an experienced guy, and I think it's an upgrade on the tandem, which is what we wanted to accomplish."
To have a backup goalie Wednesday against Philadelphia, the Capitals recalled Philipp Grubauer from Hershey of the American Hockey League.
Washington made two deals Tuesday, adding left wing Dustin Penner in a deal with the Anaheim Ducks, while trading forward Martin Erat to Phoenix.
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