Vitek Vanecek’s revenge game will have to wait, as he will not be between the pipes for the New Jersey Devils as they take on Vanecek’s former Washington Capitals for the first time this season.
Per NHL.com’s Mike Morreale, Mackenzie Blackwood was in the starter’s net at the Devils’ morning skate. It will mark his fourth consecutive start to open 2022-23.
Meanwhile, Vanecek has played in just one game for New Jersey this season, surrendering five goals on 27 shots (.773 save percentage) in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 15. Blackwood, meanwhile, is 3-1 with a .904 SV% and 2.02 GAA.
Vanecek had spent years developing in the Capitals organization. And after heart complications abruptly ended Henrik Lundqvist‘s career, Vanecek made the jump from the AHL’s Hershey Bears to Washington and became a full-time NHL netminder in 2020-21. Over the last two seasons in D.C., Vanecek went 41-22-10 with a .908 SV% and 2.68 GAA while sharing the net with Ilya Samsonov.
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While both showed strong play at times, inconsistencies and poor showings led the Capitals to go for a goaltending overhaul this season. Vanecek was traded to New Jersey at the 2022 NHL Draft in exchange for picks. There, the RFA signed a three-year, $10.2 million contract.
As for Samsonov, he did not receive a qualifying offer and hit free agency. He signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Samsonov already got his revenge game — and a win — against Washington to open the season, as he stopped 24 of 26 shots (.923 SV%) in a 3-2 win. The Russian has become the Leafs’ starter with Matt Murray on the shelf, and he has impressed with a 4-0 record, .938 SV% and 1.73 GAA to kick off his Toronto tenure.