Fleury to start tonight in last bid to retain his starting job
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Sometime tomorrow, with the preseason schedule complete, Penguins general manager Ray Shero will confer with coach Michel Therrien and his staff.
One of the most critical decisions will come at the goaltending position, and Shero hinted yesterday that when the staff emerges from its meeting, Marc-Andre Fleury is likely to remain on the NHL roster.
"We'll talk about whether we go with three goalies or make the decision to go with two," Shero said. "We haven't made that decision yet, but I want to have sort of a big picture in mind. We're trying to get something accomplished and build something."
That thought process could benefit Fleury, 21, the first overall draft pick in 2003 and considered the team's future in net, despite a less than sparkling preseason.
Fleury, who will start tonight at Buffalo, has a 4.39 goals-against average and an .827 save percentage in two exhibition games.
"It's been, maybe not exactly the way I wanted, but every practice I go out, practice hard, play hard," Fleury said.
His competition is veteran Jocelyn Thibault, who between the 2004-05 lockout and injuries has hardly played in three seasons, and Dany Sabourin, 25, who was signed as a free agent in August 2005.
The strong play of those two is what makes the roster decision difficult.
"All I wanted to do is come to camp and play to the best of my ability, come back and play the way I used to play before my hip problems," said Thibault, who started last night in the Penguins' 4-3 overtime loss to Buffalo. He stopped 25 of 29 shots as his record this preseason fell to 2-1.
Colby Armstrong scored twice, including a go-ahead goal on a power play at 11:26 of the third period when he one-timed a Ryan Whitney pass past Martin Biron. John LeClair got the Penguins' other goal, in the second period.
Adam Mair's unassisted goal was the winner for the Sabres at 2:53 of overtime.
Sabourin was the backup and will be again tonight.
Sabourin was expected to be the odd man out by now. He doesn't have a regular stall in the Penguins' locker room but uses a folding chair in the corner.
"I feel comfortable right now, like I'm ready to play in the NHL, but I don't know how they feel," said Sabourin, who spent most of last season with the team's minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, compiling a 30-14-4 record with a 2.26 goals-against average.
In an emergency call-up, though, he got shelled in his only NHL appearance, allowing four goals in 21 minutes.
Fleury is the only one of the three who doesn't need to clear waivers to be sent to Wilkes-Barre, but he has made it clear that starting the season anywhere but with the Penguins would be a major disappointment.
"That's my goal. That's what I want to do -- stay here and play in the NHL. That's why I'm here. I want to stay here," said Fleury, who played 12 games for Wilkes-Barre last season, partly because of financial concerns.
If the Penguins go into Thursday's season opener against Philadelphia with all three goaltenders, it could lead to frustration as they jostle for playing time.
"It's tough when you're a backup sitting on the bench [with two goaltenders on the roster], so I don't know with three how it would be," Fleury said.
"We'll see what happens."Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Goalie Jocelyn Thibault watches the Sabres' tying goal fly past him in the third period.
Click photo for larger image.
The Post-Gazette begins its preview of the NHL season with a look at the 2006-07 Penguins: More than a new general manager and a fresh coat of paint.
First Published September 30, 2006 12:00 am