Fleury hoping for different results with Penguins this season

Goaltender won't say much about his summer sessions with sports psychologist, though


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Ask Marc-Andre Fleury about certain things, and he lights up.

For example, he might be one of the few new dads who would gush over a 10-hour-plus drive he made Wednesday from Montreal to Pittsburgh with an infant in tow.

Daughter Estelle was born in April, just before the playoffs -- or, in hockey terms, just before the Penguins goaltender again struggled in the postseason.

The playoffs are not a favorite topic for Fleury, who Thursday joined several teammates at Consol Energy Center for an informal practice in preparation for the start of training camp Wednesday.

Fleury said he had a fairly routine summer in terms of his offseason workouts, but this offseason was different in some respects. He returned to town with some new ideas he developed in counseling sessions and ready to work with a new goaltending coach.

After Fleury was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun in a playoff run that ended when the Penguins were swept by Boston in the Eastern Conference final, there was widespread speculation that Fleury would or should be traded.

Instead, coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero gave Fleury a public vote of confidence, emphasizing that Fleury would remain the club's No. 1 goaltender.

Fleury appreciated the backing but wants to prove things in net.

"It's nice," he said of Bylsma and Shero's words, "but I want to get in there. I want to play. I want to win. That's the only way to do things."

There's only one place he wants to do that.

"I love this place," Fleury said of Pittsburgh. "I've been here for my whole career. I want to stay here. I want to win here. That's my goal."

Winning hasn't been a problem in some respects.

Fleury, 28 and the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, has assembled win totals of 40, 37, 35, 36, 42 and, last season, 23 in a schedule shortened to 48 games by a lockout.

"I think I've been getting more consistent through the years, and that's a big thing I wanted to improve," Fleury said. "That's good, but, at the end of the day, what people remember is the playoffs. That's where you make a name for yourself."

Fleury backstopped the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup final and then to the 2009 Cup title. Then, the playoff version of Fleury went cold.

Since the Cup win, Fleury is 14-16 in the postseason with a 3.18 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage, and the Penguins have won just three of seven playoff series and have not made it back to the Cup final despite being perennial favorites.

Hockey Canada apparently took notice. It did not invite Fleury to its Olympic orientation camp last month. Fleury did not play in the 2010 Vancouver Games but made Canada's team as its No. 3 goalie. Team Canada's braintrust will be watching players closely over the first half of the NHL season, and there still is a chance he could be picked for the team that goes to Sochi for the 2014 Games.

At Shero's request, Fleury underwent counseling this summer with someone believed to be a sports psychologist.

Fleury was reluctant to divulge details of those talks -- "I don't want to get into it," he said -- but he called it "a different approach" and offered a little insight about what he came away with.

"It was good -- different tools and different stuff you can use and think about," he said, adding that he might tweak his pregame mental preparation. "What we talked about with the guy was to maybe try to use my time a little bit differently, maybe a little more time to myself to get ready."

Fleury also will be talking a lot to Mike Bales, promoted this summer from goaltending development coach to the club's goalie coach specifically at the NHL level.

"We met in Montreal for lunch," Fleury said. "I saw him [previously] at training camp, around the [locker] room, but we didn't talk a lot. So it was good to get together and talk a little bit in the offseason."

Fleury worked for years with Gilles Meloche, who has moved into a scouting role with the team. Fleury said it seemed he and Bales found common ground easily.

"I told him little things I wanted to improve on and do a little differently, and he was all good with it," Fleury said. "We'll go over my game and see what I can do differently."

They will have training camp plus more than six months of the regular season to work on things before the playoffs arrive.

NOTES -- Individual-game tickets for Penguins home games go on sale at 10 a.m. today through Ticketmaster and at the Consol Energy Center box office. ... The Penguins will open their Oct. 6 practice exclusively to participants and volunteers in the team's charity 6.6K run and family walk. Visit www.mariolemieux.org for details.

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For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published September 6, 2013 4:00 AM


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