Facing what is expected to be the longest injury layoff of his career, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was asked what he will do over the next several weeks.
"Shoot myself," he joked yesterday after his teammates held their morning skate for the game last night against Ottawa at Mellon Arena.
Fleury went from an initial prognosis of being out on a day-to-day basis with a slight ankle injury to looking at six to eight weeks of recovery time for a high ankle sprain.
He was injured in the first few minutes of the Penguins' 3-2 shootout win Dec. 6 at Calgary. He said he is not sure if he caught a rut, but his ankle felt awkward after he slipped slightly in the crease.
While he expressed confidence in backup Dany Sa-bourin, who steps into the No. 1 goaltending job, and recent recall Ty Conklin, Fleury is distressed over missing what could be a quarter or more of the season.
"I've got too much time," he said. "I'll just do rehab, come to the games, work out.
"Maybe I can get my ankle stronger and come back quick."
Circumstances were different for the Penguins heading into their game against Ottawa last night compared with the last time they played the Senators.
They were 2-7-1 over the first three weeks of November before playing in Ottawa Thanksgiving night. In that game, they came back twice from two-goal deficits to win in a shootout, 6-5.
"After that game, we were as satisfied with a game as we had been all season to that point," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "It started a little momentum for us."
There was a feeling that the game might have been a turning point in the season, and it's difficult for the Penguins to dispute that so far after the win launched a 7-2 stretch going into last night.
"That was how we started building our confidence and building toward the way we want to play," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
The Penguins' recent four-game road trip had a night-and-day element to it.
There were the three close wins in Western Canada, where team captain Sidney Crosby was smothered with attention and adoration. Then there was the fight-filled, 8-2 loss at Philadelphia, where Crosby and his teammates were treated with disdain.
"It was a little different," Crosby said of the transition.
"I think I've gotten used to that. I'm just happy to be back. Every road trip's not like that."
Angelo Esposito, the Penguins' first-round draft pick last summer, did not make Team Canada's roster for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. ... Next for Crosby might be the Canadian Press athlete of the year, which will be announced late this month. Crosby won the Lou Marsh Award this week. That's another national award in Canada, and he beat out the NBA's Steve Nash, kayaker Adam van Koeverden, boxer Steve Molitor and skier Erik Guay. "It's a big honor," Crosby said of the Marsh Award. "It's a pretty prestigious award."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.