- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

Cristobal Huet will start in the net for the Washington Capitals tonight in the first step forward for the new-look team and its ongoing goaltender quandary.

In the team’s first game with the players added at Tuesday afternoon’s deadline, Huet, whom the Caps acquired from Montreal for a second-round pick in 2009, will oppose the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

“I don’t think it is a decision that anybody didn’t think would happen,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We traded for a No. 1 goalie from Montreal, and now we have two No. 1 goalies.”

Added netminder Olie Kolzig: “They didn’t bring him in here to sit on the bench. It is an opportunity to get him in there right away, and we’ll go from there.”

Washington plays again tomorrow night at home against Toronto. Both Huet and Kolzig said they expected Kolzig would get the nod against the Maple Leafs, but Boudreau wasn’t ready to commit.

“No, I mean, if Huet is unbelievable, then we will go with him on Saturday,” Boudreau said.

Kolzig started for the Caps on Tuesday night hours after the team made the move, and he produced one of his best outings of the season. He stopped 34 of 35 shots in a 4-1 win.

It continued his strong play of late. The 37-year-old goalie has yielded two goals or fewer in five of his past six starts.

“I’m not a big numbers guy,” Kolzig said. “The only numbers I care about are I’m 12-4-4 in my last 20. People can make up their own minds about numbers.”

Added Boudreau: “[Kolzig] knows he is going to play. Cristobal Huet is not coming in here to play [all] 18 games. Olie has played very good as of late. Cris will play tomorrow, and we’ll go from there.”

When the team began practice yesterday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, only Huet and Kolzig were on the ice. Brent Johnson, who has been Kolzig’s backup since the lockout, watched from the benches in workout clothes.

Toward the end of practice, Johnson put on his equipment and went on the ice to put in some work. He did not travel with the team to Newark, N.J., but he said he was given the option and decided to stay behind because he had family coming into town and could not have practiced anyway.

“[Not practicing] is one of the things I don’t like, but I understand it from the goaltending aspect,” Johnson said. “Obviously I want to be part of the team. I just feel like some guy coming in off the street kind of, but I get that if I was that other guy I would want my own net, too. So you have to look at it that way. No one likes to share a net with another goalie, and I know I wouldn’t like to do that.”

This is not Boudreau’s first experience with juggling three goaltenders. He had that many when he coached Manchester in the American Hockey League.

In the 2001-02 season, he had three goalies (Travis Scott, Marcel Cousineau and Stephane Fiset) log between 23 and 39 games for the Monarchs. The next season, Scott and Huet split most of the duties, while the team also had a third goalie (Jeff Sanger and B.J. Boxma) around at different points in the season who saw limited action.

“It is not a great situation, and it is the same reason I didn’t want [my 9-year son] Brady on a team with two goalies in minor hockey because you don’t play. Three goalies just magnifies that,” Boudreau said. “I’m glad now in hindsight that I went through it because it was [hard] back then. But it is not Dec. 1 in the American League. We’re into March here, and we all have a common goal.”

How Boudreau handles the rotation will play a big part in the team’s push for its first playoff berth in five years, but how the players respond is also a key component.

“I think everybody realizes how weird it is in here right now,” Kolzig said. “It is not just about having two No. 1s — you also have a guy [Johnson] who has had a real good year who is not even dressing. That becomes a concern when guys are worried about that guy. I think [Johnson] will handle it pretty well, and the guys will support Cristobal.”

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