Penguins Notebook: Bruins goalie understands Fleury's struggles
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The parallels are there between what Boston veteran goaltender Tim Thomas experienced last season and what the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury is going through now.
"You've got to start building your confidence, and it's not always the easiest thing to do," Thomas said after his team's morning skate Wednesday in preparation for a game against the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the top NHL goaltender in 2008-09, winning 36 games. Last season, he was outshone by rookie Tuuka Rask and saw his playing time diminish. Thomas played in just one game in February, nine after the end of January, and finished the season 17-18-8.
Fleury, who helped the Penguins win the 2009 Stanley Cup, has struggled at 1-6 and watched Brent Johnson make his seventh start and eighth appearance this season in the game against Boston.
For Thomas, 36, things got better. Much better. He regained his form and his No. 1 job. He was 7-0-0 and led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage going into the game.
He said working his way back was a complicated journey.
"Sometimes you need to practice your technique more, but if you do that and you just stick to technique, you'll have those practices where you're getting scored on a lot, and that can affect you mentally," Thomas said. "But then if you go the other way and you just want to stop more [shots] in practice but you don't get your technique in place, then you might start feeling better in practice, but then once you get in the game you won't feel right because you haven't been practicing technique.
"It's a balance."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sees Thomas as a good example of where he believes Fleury is headed.
"I think the belief that Marc is going to play great hockey again is a hundred percent from our guys and coaches," Bylsma said. "You can pinpoint this situation where Tim Thomas didn't have results, numbers, and experienced not playing very much, to coming back to doing what he's doing now, which is [playing] outstanding again.
"Those are things that you draw upon. You also draw upon your previous experience. Marc's had some difficult times in his career. ... He's always been able to work through it. That's the belief, and Tim Thomas is another example of that happening to another good goalie."
Count Penguins center Sidney Crosby among those in favor of the new All-Star Game format, where instead of Eastern Conference players facing those from the West, team captains, selected by the players, will "draft" teammates from a pool of All-Stars.
"I think it would be cool," Crosby said. "I think it would probably make it a little more competitive."
Crosby, if he is part of the Jan. 30 game in Carolina, might find himself being one of those picking his team.
"It would be a little bit of pressure," he said. "Guys, I'm sure, would all want to be picked. You would have a pretty good pool to pick from, though, so, yeah, it would be fun."
Bylsma got "sick and tired" of hearing about Chris Conner. In a good way.
The glowing in-house reports about the speedy forward's play with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton helped lead to his recall Wednesday from the American Hockey League. Bylsma said there also was concern because a couple of players have been slowed by flu-like illness this week, and the Penguins wanted some roster insurance.
Conner, 26, who had three goals, nine points in 11 games with the Baby Penguins, did not play against Boston. He has played in 79 NHL games.
The Penguins' other healthy scratches were forward Mike Comrie and defenseman Deryk Engelland. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy had been scratched the previous three games.
The Penguins hosted several "wounded warriors" military members and their families at the morning skate and game in honor of Veterans Day. ... Tickets ranging from $20-$30 for the Dec. 30 doubleheader at Consol Energy Center -- Robert Morris vs. RIT at 3 p.m., Wilkes-Barre vs. Hershey at 7:30 p.m. -- go on sale today at www.ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-745-3000, at the arena box office or at Ticketmaster outlets.
First Published November 11, 2010 12:00 am