TAMPA, Fla. -- He's being true to his word, Penguins coach Michel Therrien noted of his decision to start goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"That's our philosophy -- we go with guys who are playing well, especially in net," Therrien said.
After a layoff of nearly three months because of a high ankle sprain, Fleury made his first start Sunday in a 3-2 shootout win against Atlanta at home. He stopped 31 of 33 shots and all three shootout attempts.
"He played well last game," Therrien said. "He deserved to play again, and we'll go from there."
It marked just the second time since Dec. 20 that Ty Conklin had gone two games in a row without starting.
Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella entered the game with 234 wins in the NHL, tying him with late Penguins coach Bob "Badger" Johnson as the all-time leaders among American-born coaches. Tortorella earlier this season became the all-time leader in games coached by an American in the NHL.
Tortorella, like Johnson, has been involved in USA hockey, but, surprisingly never crossed paths with Johnson, who guided the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup championship in 1991 but died of a brain tumor during the following season.
"I never even met Bob. That's my biggest disappointment," Tortorella said. "I've heard so many great stories about him, about the mind-set he put players in."
Tortorella isn't running for office -- although he might be looking for a new job if speculation is to be believed -- but he offered a concession speech earlier this week, saying it's clear the Lightning is playing with an eye toward next year with the 2008 playoffs out of the picture.
That doesn't mean he's giving up on adding as many points as possible to the 59 the team had before last night's game. That had Tampa Bay in last place in the Eastern Conference, 29th place overall in the NHL.
"We're not here to just play it out. We're here to win," said Tortorella, a fiery, driven man.
"I don't know how to act in this situation. It's a kick in the gut."
With center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Ryan Whitney back in the lineup, winger Connor James and defenseman Alex Goligoski were returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They had been called up on an emergency basis. Whitney missed two games because of a sore groin. ... Winger Gary Roberts skated with conditioning coach Mike Kadar near the end of the morning skate. "I don't think he's that close, but we're looking to have him back before the playoffs," Therrien said of Roberts, who is recovering from a broken left leg and a high ankle sprain. ... Forward Kris Beech (broken wrist) also is on the road trip and skated near the end of the morning session. ... Penguins radio play-by-play broadcaster Mike Lange celebrated his 60th birthday by calling Crosby's return game.