Penguins Notebook: Fleury's slump might be ending
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Marc-Andre Fleury understands that it's a process.
That just as a slump does not consist of one or two bad games, getting out of one requires more than a couple of strong starts.
"There's not one day when you wake up and you're all good," he said. "It takes a little while."
Fleury might not be completely out of the rut that he fell into early in the season but, as the Penguins prepare to face Carolina at 7:08 tonight at Consol Energy Center, he certainly seems to be headed that way.
He has put together four consecutive quality performances over the past week, highlighted by a 29-save effort in the 3-1 victory against Vancouver Wednesday.
"Even more than the other ones, [Fleury] looked his best [against the Canucks], being solid and square and confident," coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday. "It's good to see him string games together."
Although Bylsma has not named his starter for tonight, having Fleury sit out when he finally is settling into a productive rhythm might be tough to justify.
Then again, backup Brent Johnson -- who carried the Penguins when Fleury was struggling -- has to get enough work to keep an edge on his game. What's more, he turned aside all 33 shots Carolina threw at him during a 3-0 victory Oct. 30 at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
"We still have to make those decisions about getting Brent back in," Bylsma said.
He added that the rotation established by the coaching staff for November calls for Fleury to start 10 games, Johnson four.
So far, Fleury has started six (finishing five) and Johnson one.
Center Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Paul Martin and winger Arron Asham sat out the Penguins' practice Thursday at Southpointe but apparently are reasonably good bets to play tonight.
"I'd anticipate them all playing," Bylsma said.
Center Jordan Staal, recovering from surgery to repair a broken hand, is the only player who wasn't available for the Vancouver game.
Defenseman Ian White, acquired from Calgary in a four-player trade Wednesday, is scheduled to make his Hurricanes debut tonight.
The other player Carolina got in that deal, forward Brett Sutter, was put on waivers Thursday and will be assigned to the Hurricanes' farm team in Charlotte, if he goes unclaimed.
Adding White is an effort to upgrade a bargain-basement defense corps; before the Calgary trade, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that Carolina is paying about $12 million to its defensemen, less than 28 other clubs were spending on their bluelines.
The Hurricanes have a quality goaltender in Cam Ward and a group of skilled forwards, headlined by Eric Staal -- talented enough that Carolina is averaging 3.17 goals per game, fifth-most in the league before the Thursday night games -- but are giving up an average of 3.39 goals per game, the NHL's third-highest total.
The Penguins have given up just two goals in 39 short-handed situations in their past nine games, including a 5-for-5 performance by the penalty-killers against Vancouver.
They have an appreciation for the impact that kind of short-handed work can have on opponents, if only because their own power play has sputtered much of the season.
"We've been on the other side of that, where it's frustrating on the power play," center Sidney Crosby said.
"That's what [the Penguins' penalty-killers] are doing to teams -- they're frustrating them, they're blocking shots, they're making it tough.
"To top it off, we're getting a couple of goals on the penalty kill for momentum. It changes the game when they do that."
First Published November 19, 2010 12:00 am