Fleury’s early season play with Penguins may sway Team Canada


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Marc-Andre Fleury isn't going to publicly lobby for the job.

Probably wouldn't even think of doing it, because he's not wired that way.

Besides, it likely wouldn't do him any good, and might even hurt.

Regardless of how much he does or doesn't say about it, Fleury is more than a little motivated to secure a job as one of Canada's three goaltenders for the 2014 Olympics in February in Sochi, Russia.

"It's in the back of my mind," he said. "I had such a great experience [at the 2010 Games] in Vancouver."

Fleury never made it into a game for Canada when it won the gold medal nearly four years ago -- Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo got all the work then -- but that didn't detract from the experience for him.

Or lessen his desire to compete in the Games again.

"Just to be part of it and to be recognized as one of the top three [Canadian goalies] that year was something I really appreciated," Fleury said.

At the time, it seemed as if only a major injury could keep him off Canada's 2014 roster. Fleury was regarded as one of the game's top young goalies and was just a half-year removed from winning a Stanley Cup -- a victory he sealed with a memorable stop on Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom as time expired in Game 7 of the Cup final.

Since then, however, the Penguins have endured a series of disappointing playoff performances, and Fleury has had some miserable showings in high-stakes games.

He hit his nadir in the spring when Tomas Vokoun replaced him four games into the Penguins' opening-round series against the New York Islanders. That demotion not only stung Fleury, but likely cost him an invitation to Canada's Olympic camp in the summer.

"It was disappointing for me, but I could see from the two games in the playoffs that got me out," Fleury said. "[Team Canada executives] didn't like that, and that's understandable."

Not being asked to attend the camp doesn't mean Fleury is guaranteed to be left off the squad, but it reinforced the point that he wasn't high on the short list of candidates for a spot.

"I'm sure it's disappointing that he wasn't selected to that summer camp, but at the same time I always tell guys, 'Control what you can control,' and you can't control what other people are thinking," Penguins goaltending coach Mike Bales said. "You can just control how you play."

And, as the Penguins prepare to start the second month of their season with a visit Wednesday to Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, Fleury seems to have his game pretty well under control.

He is 10-2 -- the only NHL goalie to reach double-digits in victories -- with a 1.83 goals-against average and save percentage of .929.

Going into Sunday, his goals-against average was the league's sixth best and his save percentage ranked eighth. Presumably, Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman and his staff have noticed.

"It's been going well," Fleury said. "I try to do well. The month was good. We got some wins. It can't hurt, right?"

Probably not. Especially when Fleury's goals-against average is better than that of all five goalies -- Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Mike Smith and Luongo -- invited to Team Canada's camp.

"Obviously he's gotten off to a great start, just as the team has," Bales said. "We've been playing, for the most part, pretty well defensively and Marc's been a part of that. The way he's played certainly isn't a surprise to me."

As has been noted countless times, the success of Fleury's season will be measured by how he performs in the playoffs. But Team Canada officials figure to factor this season's work into their decision-making, because they will want players who are performing well going into the tournament.

And few, if any, goaltenders -- from Canada or anywhere else -- have gotten a better start than Fleury in 2013-14.

Still, Fleury realizes it's possible his playoff troubles knocked him so far off Team Canada's radar that he's barely a remote blip at this point, regardless of how well he's playing.

"There's not too much you can do about it," he said. "It's mostly about the team. You try to do well, win games and see what happens after that."

*

NOTES -- The Penguins had a scheduled day off Sunday. ... Rookie Jeff Zatkoff, who stopped 19 shots in a 3-0 victory Saturday in Columbus, is the first Penguins goalie to record a shutout in his first NHL victory, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.

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