On the Penguins: Curry rebounds after poor 2009-10

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Some people would say that the 2009-10 season was a disaster for goalie John Curry.

A career-threatening train wreck. A six-month exercise in futility, frustration and failure.

Others might not put it so gently.

But Curry -- once a popular choice to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury's long-term goaltending partner -- has rebounded from that miserable season and quite possibly reclaimed a place in the organization's long-range plans.

He and Brad Thiessen have been splitting the workload for the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre and have helped the Baby Penguins put together the best record in the American Hockey League.

Curry entered the weekend with a 12-5 record, 2.37 goals against average and .910 save percentage, a major upgrade from the 23-19-2-1 record, 2.87 goals-against average and .891 save percentage of last season.

"John Curry has had an excellent rebound year," said Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill, who doubles as general manager of the Baby Penguins.

Raw numbers aside, Curry believes that some good came from the adversity he experienced last winter.

"I went through a tough season, but going through that, I've learned a ton," he said. "Probably more than I have in any other season."

His bounce-back season came at a good time. Curry is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in July.

"I feel very in control of my game, and I'm excited to continue that and build on it," he said.

And even though he is no better than No. 3a on the Penguins' depth chart, he is adamant that he doesn't want to move to another team next summer.

"I'd love to stay in this organization," he said. "I've had an awesome experience here. Obviously, I've wanted to be in the NHL since I've been here and it hasn't happened consistently yet, but it's been an awesome organization.

"They've been fair, they've been honest. I've developed a lot and learned a lot."

A hard decision, a smart decision

A significant portion of the fan base was unhappy with general manager Ray Shero in the summer of 2008, when he declined to offer Jarkko Ruutu the third year on a contract that it would have taken to keep him here.

Ruutu, at the time, had become quite popular, mostly because of the nasty edge with which he plays but also because he showed an unexpected knack for scoring in shootouts.

Nonetheless, Shero wouldn't give him more than two years, and Ruutu signed with Ottawa when the Senators were willing to give him three.

It looks as if Shero -- who rarely gives any role player more than two years on a contract -- made a pretty shrewd call.

Ruutu has a salary-cap hit of $1.3 million this season, but entered the weekend with just two goals and six assists in 38 games. He is averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time and was a healthy scratch for two games last weekend.

Another day, another testimonial

Former Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg is the kind of guy who never has a bad word to say about anyone or anything.

But even Hedberg doesn't usually revert to the kind of superlatives he did recently while discussing Sidney Crosby.

"You got to be impressed," said Hedberg, who is Martin Brodeur's partner in New Jersey this season. "He's an unbelievable player. He makes things just happen in a quick-quick second out of nothing.

"He's a complete player. He does everything. He plays defense. He plays center ice. He plays in the offensive zone. He's very good at hiding in the offensive zone. ... If you're a great player, you're going to know where the puck is going to end up."

The Week Ahead

Monday: Boston ... The Bruins' previous visit was the low-water mark in the Penguins' season, as Boston rallied from a 7-4 deficit by scoring five times in the third period Nov. 10.

Wednesday: at Montreal ... Didn't the Penguins just get back from there?

Saturday: at Boston ... Players won't have to wait long to settle any scores that arise from the game at Consol Energy Center Monday night.

Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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