Matt Murray makes save against Tampa Bay Lightnings earlier in the season.
By Seth Rorabaugh / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Penguins goaltending situation got an intriguing twist Sunday.
Not because Marc-Andre Fleury, who sat out a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay the previous day because of illness, returned and made 24 saves in a 4-3 victory against the Sabres at First Niagara Center.
Rather, it was because the Penguins called up Matt Murray from their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre to back up Fleury.
That made Jeff Zatkoff, who had a subpar showing against the Lightning, an apparent healthy scratch.
Whether sitting Zatkoff was a short-term move or an indication he is losing his place as the No. 2 goalie isn’t clear.
Coach Mike Sullivan said, “I made a decision [on Fleury’s backup] for [Sunday]” but later added that “of course there’s a chance” Murray will spend time in the NHL in the stretch drive.
“The approach we’ve taken with this team is one game at a time, and we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Sullivan said. “We’ve penciled in games where we think it’s appropriate for the backup goalie [to play].
“Nothing is etched in stone. … We’re trying to put all of our players in a position to be successful. Our goaltenders are the same way.”
Zatkoff, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and seems likely to sign elsewhere, is 4-6-1 this season, with a 2.78 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
He would have to clear waivers before joining the Baby Penguins. The Penguins did not place him on waivers Sunday.
Murray is 2-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in four NHL appearances. He has played in 30 games with the Baby Penguins, going 19-9-1 with a 2.11 goals-against and .931 save percentage.
Defenseman Ian Cole earned sound reviews for his performance against the Sabres, his first game after being a healthy scratch for the previous 11.
Cole worked on the third pairing alongside Derrick Pouliot and logged 13:48 of ice time, 1:36 of it short-handed.
He was credited with three hits, tying Bryan Rust for the team lead, and one blocked shot.
“I thought Ian was solid,” Sullivan said. “I thought he was real solid. He kept his game simple.
“He’s good on the penalty-kill. He’s a good shot-blocker. I thought he was solid down low.
“I liked his game. I thought he brought a lot to the table for us.”
Sidney Crosby had an assist on the Penguins’ first goal against the Sabres, but that wasn’t his most memorable moment in the opening period.
That came when he was standing along the boards at the blue line and Sabres left winger Nicolas Deslauriers charged toward him.
Rather than absorb the hit, Crosby bent over at the waist and flipped Deslauriers over his back, sending him tumbling skates-first through the air.
“He was going to get a piece of me,” Crosby said. “I just didn’t think I needed to take a hit. I was half-trying to avoid it.”
The Penguins placed center Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the past nine games because of an undisclosed injury, on injured reserve, retroactively. Because of the time he already has missed, Malkin can be activated at any time. … Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, a Cranberry native, returned to Buffalo’s lineup after being a healthy scratch for the previous five games. He filled a spot created by an injury to defenseman Cody Franson. … The Penguins sent defenseman David Warsofsky, who has been recovering from a concussion, to Wilkes-Barre on a conditioning assignment. … The Penguins have a scheduled day off today.
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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