Pens camp ‘odd’ minus Fleury
Goalie was selected by Las Vegas in expansion draft.
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP — For as much as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first day of training camp Friday felt like a reunion of the group that won the Stanley Cup just three months ago, there were some notable differences.
Perhaps none more so than the fact that the locker room in Cranberry no longer had a “#29 — FLEURY” placard affixed above one of the stalls.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, selected by Las Vegas in this summer’s expansion draft, was one of several players the Penguins had to part with this offseason, and his absence was felt as the team reconvened morning at UPMC Lemieux Sports Com- plex.
“It’s definitely a little odd walking in here, and you don’t see that happy face every time in the locker room,” defenseman Olli Maatta said. “It’s part of the game. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Captain Sidney Crosby said Fleury’s absence started creeping up on him as training camp approached.
“The skates leading up and things like that, it’s weird not having him around,” Crosby said. “But I think once you’re in the mix, you probably don’t think about it as much.
“It was a little weird here coming into camp, not seeing him around. But he looks like he’s adjusting to Vegas and he’s going to be great for them there.”
Crosby said he has talked to Fleury a few times this summer.
“He sounds like he’s happy and excited for the opportunity there,” Crosby said. “As a hockey player, you’ve got to go out there and play. I’m sure that’s his focus, and he’s got a great opportunity there.”
Fleury wasn’t the only former Penguins player who left Pittsburgh this summer. Last season, the Penguins brought back virtually every key piece from their Stanley Cup run a year earlier. This time, they didn’t have that luxury.
In addition to Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Matt Cullen and Ron Hainsey played key roles for the Penguins in their Cup run last season but will start this season elsewhere.
“All those guys, you really miss those guys,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “But that being said, you can’t wallow in self-pity that they’re not here or long after them like a heartbroken lover, if you will. Those guys will certainly be missed, without a doubt. I think if you said anything else, you’d be lying. It’s something where that’s the name of the game, and that’s the business that we’re in.”
And while the Penguins will miss those players in Pittsburgh, Cole said it’s impossible not to be happy, personally, for the situation each one is walking into on their new team.
“I think, truly, honestly, everyone is really happy for those guys with the deals that they signed,” Cole said. “Bones signing his big deal in Nashville, Flower getting an opportunity to continue to be the man in Vegas. Those are great opportunities for those guys. Dales signing an unbelievable three-year deal in Detroit. Those are all situations that are great for those guys. To kind of step back, yeah, we’ll miss them as a team, but we’re really happy for them personally.”
And, as Cole said, it’s part of the business, so the Penguins have no choice but to move on.
Antti Niemi is expected to replace Marc-Andre Fleury as Pittsburgh’s backup goaltender this season.