Penguins Notebook: Fleury makes strong case to be a starter for Canada

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The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury grew up admiring New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. When the teams play, as they did last night, the two goaltenders usually speak during warmups.

"I just say, 'Hi, how are you doing,' " Fleury said. "Nothing too interesting."

There certainly was an interesting angle last night when the teams met at Mellon Arena.

Brodeur is considered the favorite to be the starter for Team Canada at the Olympics in February, and it's no wonder. The 37-year-old is a veteran of three Olympics. In the NHL, he has won four Vezina Trophies and three Stanley Cups. And he's not slowing.

Going into the game last night, he led the league with 22 wins.

Fleury, though, was right behind with 21 wins, and there are some rumblings that the 25-year-old who is coming off his first Stanley Cup could give Brodeur a run for the No. 1 job with Canada.

Just don't expect Fleury to address it.

"I don't want to think about that," he said. "I just want to worry about the Penguins right now."

Fleury has been solid -- "He's always been there for us this year," general manager Ray Shero said -- and was rewarded for it when the NHL named him the No. 2 star for the previous week.

"It went pretty good," Fleury said of his 3-0 week, when he beat rival Philadelphia twice, won twice in shootouts by stopping all five shots he faced, and gave up four goals on 92 shots.

"As long as the team wins, that's all that matters. We have a good team. They can usually score some big goals. If I can do a good job, try to keep the score low, our odds are good."

Although Brodeur, Fleury and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo are the favorites to make the Team Canada squad, which will be announced Dec. 30, how the goaltenders will be deployed remains to be seen.

Shero, who serves as an advisor for Team USA, is confident Fleury could handle a starting assignment at the Games in Vancouver if he lands it.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "It all depends on how they want to go. Obviously, he's been in big games, in the playoffs, and that's what you look for in a short tournament. Where [Canadian general manager] Steve Yzerman and his team go in terms of the three goaltenders remains to be seen, but you would think Brodeur's going to be there.

"Other than that, Marc-Andre's got to be in the mix with the other guys and be a strong candidate to play. That's how far his game has come. The past couple years have been fantastic for him."

Skoula replaces Eaton

The injury bug that hit five of the Penguins' top six defensemen earlier this season finally got the sixth. Mark Eaton sat out last night's game with an undisclosed problem.

"It's not long term at this point," coach Dan Bylsma said, but he couched that by noting that Eaton had not been fully evaluated by doctors.

Eaton apparently got hurt Saturday night in the second period of the Penguins' 2-1 shootout win at Buffalo when he got tangled with the Sabres' Mike Grier and the two slid into the end boards.

Martin Skoula, who played 22 games while filling in during assorted injury problems earlier, took Eaton's spot.




Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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