Garon finally gets a chance to forget his debut
For 22 days, Mathieu Garon was stuck with thoughts of it.
His first start in goal for the Penguins, a 5-4 loss Jan. 31 at Toronto pocked by too many rebounds and a couple of soft goals, was not the impression he wanted to make on his new team and its fans.
It was not the kind of performance the Penguins expected when they traded for him Jan. 17.
Yet for the better part of a month, he could only wait and practice and wait some more for an opportunity to rid his brain of the memory.
"It's a long time. Sometimes you overthink about your last game," Garon said yesterday after the Penguins practiced at Southpointe. "I just tried to forget that game. It's been a while and I have been practicing a lot and I feel a lot better now. I think I'm ready."
It's likely that means he is ready to wait some more.
Garon realizes he probably will only get spot duty behind No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. But with every game crucial to the team's playoff chances, he hopes future appearances, whenever they come, will be more like the one he made Sunday in Washington than that start against the Maple Leafs.
After giving up five goals on 20 shots, Fleury was pulled in the second period by interim coach Dan Bylsma. Garon went in and stopped the 14 Capitals shots he faced in a 5-2 Washington win.
"Mentally it's a big challenge when you get into a game like that," Garon said. "It was a tough game to get in. Sometimes you make the first couple saves and you start feeling better.
"I was more myself [Sunday] than I was in Toronto. It was a lot of change for me -- new team, new system. It was a long time [since] I played a game. I think that's why I felt that way in Toronto. I think last game I didn't have time to think too much. I just got in there and played my game."
Fleury has started all but four games since he returned from a groin injury in mid-December. He has started every game but the one Garon played in Toronto since the Penguins acquired Garon, a former starter for Edmonton, from the Oilers Jan. 17 for backup goaltender Dany Sabourin, minor league forward Ryan Stone and a fourth-round draft pick in 2011.
That's 28 starts the past 31 games, including the past 10 games in a row, for Fleury.
With no back-to-back games until the middle of March, there's no telling when Fleury might yield any minutes to Garon again. Bylsma didn't sound as if he's thinking about rewarding Garon with a start tomorrow when the New York Islanders visit.
"The best goalies in this league play a lot of games," Bylsma said. "They have a certain amount of games, right around 60, that they're expected to play and need to play."
Fleury, who is 21-16-4 in 43 appearances, could reach that 60-game mark despite missing a month with the groin injury. The Penguins have 21 games remaining.
You won't hear Fleury complaining about the workload.
"In a way it's good, just to get in your rhythm," he said.
Asked about fatigue, which seemed like it might have been a factor Sunday with Fleury playing for the second afternoon in a row and third game in less than 72 hours, he said, "Some days might be a little tougher than others, but I try to rest when I can. It's been OK."
Garon, 31, was brought in partly to provide competition and a little push for Fleury, 24, but he hasn't gotten much of a chance to do that.
Fleury understands the difficult spot Garon is in.
"When you're a goalie, it's always tough to not play a lot," he said. "Then all of a sudden he has to go in and it's been awhile."
Garon, who came here on the fly because he was traveling with the Oilers when he got traded, recently moved out of a hotel and after a long upcoming road trip will be joined by his wife, Marie, and their children, Charles, 4, and Mary, 1.
"It's going to help," he said. "It's been awhile, a long time, since I've seen the kids."
That will give him something to do between practices and time spent watching games from arena runways.
Garon has been working closely with Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche. The team's fast-paced workouts help with his timing.
"We get a lot of shots in practice," Garon said. "I love it. I'm the kind of guy who likes to get a lot of shots and do a lot of work, so it's perfect for me right now.
"Mentally, I just have to keep preparing the same way I have the last few weeks. I know I'm not going to play a lot of games, but if I have to play, those are all important games. We're fighting for a spot. I want us to be in the playoffs, so I want to be ready for whatever happens."
First Published February 24, 2009 12:00 am