Marc-Andre Fleury entered training camp as the Penguins' undisputed No. 1 goalie.
He doesn't have a firm grip on that job anymore. In fact, it's not out of the question that he could start the season in the American Hockey League, which would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago.
How seriously team officials consider that extreme option could hinge on how their goalies perform during a home-and-home series against Buffalo that begins tonight at Mellon Arena.
Veteran Jocelyn Thibault, who has had a solid camp, will start tonight. Coach Michel Therrien said he has not decided who will play in the rematch at HSBC Arena at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow.
Fleury is the only one of the goalies on the major-league roster who wouldn't have to clear waivers to play in Wilkes-Barre, but he generally is regarded as the goaltender of the future, and a demotion's psychological impact must be weighed before a move is made.
Dany Sabourin, who played one game with the Penguins and 49 in Wilkes-Barre last season, has been one of the most pleasant surprises of camp and the most effective goaltender.
Therrien and general manager Ray Shero have declined to say whether they're willing to start the regular season with three goalies on their 23-man roster.
Who will replace Malkin?
The Penguins still don't know how long rookie Evgeni Malkin's dislocated left shoulder will prevent him from playing. And with less than a week to go before the regular season, they don't know who will fill in for him on the second line.
Ryan Malone, who had been penciled in on Malkin's left wing, has slid into the middle, although there's no guarantee he'll stay there.
"We have to find a solution inside our organization for the loss of Malkin," Therrien said.
Therrien canceled the Penguins' practice at the U.S. Military Academy yesterday.
The previous night, they had gone through a five-hour military-style training session designed to test stamina and character and cultivate teamwork.
They were split into four squads and, among other things, rappelled down the side of a cliff, waded through a swamp where the water was chest-high, pushed a Hummer up a steep hill and transported an "injured" soldier, along with a water-filled keg and artillery shell, about a mile.
"It was pretty grueling," center Sidney Crosby said. "I've never experienced anything like that. ... It's something that will stick with me for a long while.
"The tasks we had, they were little victories, but we all grew as a team. You think you really learn teamwork when you play the game of hockey, but you learn it on another level when you're doing things like this."