Oh, it was bad, all right.
John Curry, the No. 3 goalie on the Penguins' organizational depth chart, made his first NHL start of the season Saturday in Vancouver, when injuries prevented Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson from playing, and had the kind of night he won't soon forget.
No matter what kind of therapy he goes through.
Curry allowed five goals on 14 shots in 24 minutes, 29 seconds of work -- for those with a penchant for cruel statistics, that's a save percentage of .643 and a goals-against average of 12.50 -- and struggled badly enough that coach Dan Bylsma saw fit to replace him with a 19-year-old prospect, Alexander Pechurski, who barely can smile in English and had played a Western Hockey League game the previous evening.
• Game: New York Islanders at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Probable goaltenders: John Curry for Penguins. Dwayne Roloson for Islanders.
• Penguins: Have split two previous games with Islanders, both at Nassau Coliseum. ... D Alex Goligoski does not have goal in 25 games. ... Power play has scored multiple goals just twice in past 23 games.
• Islanders: Have won six of past seven games, including 4-0 victory yesterday against New Jersey. ... Eight of Kyle Okposo's 30 NHL goals have been winners. ... Are 3-7-1 in second game when playing on consecutive days.
• Hidden stat: Islanders have been outscored, 56-28, in third period.
Miserable as it was, Curry understands that things could have been worse. And not just because, well, he could have allowed six goals, not five, on those 14 shots.
Had Fleury and Johnson been healthy enough to dress for the Penguins' game against the New York Islanders at 7:38 tonight at Mellon Arena, Curry would have been shipped back to the Penguins' minor league team in Wilkes-Barre with nothing except the sour memories of that game against the Canucks to show for his brief visit to the NHL.
"You are only as good as your last game," Curry said yesterday. "And that one wasn't good."
But with Fleury ruled out of the Islanders game because of a broken ring finger on his left hand and Johnson questionable, at best, because of an undisclosed injury, Curry appears to be in line for a shot at redemption.
"That's what it is all about, getting in there, getting another chance after a rough game," he said. "I'm just eager to get back in there and prove [myself] again."
The Penguins have not ruled out starting Brent Johnson tonight, but he has not dressed for the past five games and suggested after practicing yesterday that "I would like to definitely have a few more skates in" to return to his pre-injury level of sharpness.
Johnson was scheduled to have an MRI of his injury yesterday and if those results -- or any other factor -- indicate that he should not even dress as the backup against New York, the Penguins will recall rookie Brad Thiessen from Wilkes-Barre.
Fleury is expected to get a glove designed to provide (or accommodate) extra protection for his broken finger, but Bylsma said he won't dress tonight, and most evidence suggests the chances of Fleury playing Thursday against Washington at Mellon Arena are remote, at best.
He went on the ice with Meloche and Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to general manager Ray Shero, before yesterday's workout, but wore a position player's glove on his left hand and worked mostly on lateral movement, not facing shots at anything resembling glove-level. Fleury adjourned to the locker room when the practice began, and did not return.
Curry probably wished he could have done the same Saturday, although that game began well enough for him.
The Penguins were holding a 1-0 lead when Henrik Sedin banked a bad-angle shot off Curry's shoulder and into the net late in the first period. A few minutes later, Alex Burrows stole the puck from Sergei Gonchar and beat Curry on a short-handed breakaway to put the Canucks in front to stay.
"They scored on the breakaway, and it seemed like his head was spinning," goalie coach Gilles Meloche said. "You could tell his mind wasn't in it then. He was thinking, and I've always said that if you're thinking in goal, you're hurting the team.
"He had a tough game. To play in this league, you have to bounce back. We'll see what he has, if he does play [tonight]."
Bylsma, who coached Curry in Wilkes-Barre, describes him as "a battler and a worker," and Curry's highly competitive nature is generally regarded as one of his greatest assets.
Some goalies might be intimidated by what Curry went through in Vancouver. For him, it appears to be primarily incentive to upgrade his play at the first opportunity.
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published January 19, 2010 5:00 AM