Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Fleury expected to stay put

Murray still has not skated since his injury

- By Sam Werner Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG

Evgeni Malkin said Saturday that he expected MarcAndre Fleury to be the Penguins’ starting goalie when they open the second round of the playoffs next week.

Given Fleury’s strong play in the team’s 4-1 firstround series win against Columbus, that’s not entirely surprising.

The more interestin­g — and still unknown — question is when, or if, Matt Murray will even become an option for the Penguins.

Murray still has not skated since leaving prior to Game 1 against Columbus with a lower-body injury, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Saturday. Sullivan said he hoped that Murray, along with the rest of the Penguins’ injured players, will be available in a “fairly timely manner,” but declined to provide a specific timetable.

Winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel appear closer to a return. Both skated on their own Saturday, and Sullivan said they’re making “significan­t progress.”

“Their next step is to join us in practice,” Sullivan said. “Those decisions will be made on a daily basis, depending on their response.”

Winger Carl Hagelin’s status is a bit more uncertain. Hagelin has skated, but not regularly, and at this point appears further away from returning than Ruhwedel and Kunitz.

“We’re reluctant to put any timeframes on it just because I don’t think it makes sense,” Sullivan said. “I think when these guys get close, we’ll let you know and obviously you’re going to see it anyways because they’re going to join us at practice. We are hopeful that we’ll get all these guys back.”

Looking ahead

For at least a few days, the Penguins are like other hockey fans, just enjoying the drama of the Capitals and Maple Leafs’ first-round series from home.

Unlike the average couch viewer, though, the Penguins watch knowing they’ll have to line up against the winner in a few days.

“It's been a fun series so far to watch,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “Both teams have been playing really well; they’ve been tight games. I don’t think I’m specifical­ly watching to get insight on them, just kind of more watching as a fan right now.”

Sullivan admitted he's watching the games a bit closer than normal but, given the amount of video scouting teams do these days, there’s not too much extra to pick up from a television broadcast.

“There’s really not a lot of secrets out there,” Sullivan said. “That’s just the nature of the game in today’s game. Certainly, we watch the games and we take notice. Maybe we watch them a little bit closer knowing that one of them is going to be our potential opponent.”

As for whether that opponent is Washington or Toronto, the Penguins didn’t express much preference. They're 1-1-1 against the Maple Leafs and 2-2-0 against the Capitals this season.

Malkin, though, recalled that the last two times the Penguins met Washington in the playoffs — those postseason­s ended in Stanley Cup championsh­ips.

“It doesn’t matter, Washington or Toronto,” Malkin said. “We remember 2009 and 2016. We played against Washington second round. Little bit lucky for us.”

Enjoying the break

The Penguins had an office workout Saturday following a full day off Friday. They’ll return to practice Sunday in preparatio­n for the second round.

“I think it’s good,” Dumoulin said. “I think you ask anyone and I think we’ll take this break.”

Still, while rest and recovery is good — especially for the injured players — Dumoulin acknowledg­ed that the Penguins will need to take an aggressive approach to practice in order to stay sharp during what could be a six-day layoff.

“We can’t just go through the motions. We’ve got to approach it, kind of still have some battles and some competitio­n,” Dumoulin said. “Definitely not try to kill each other, but try to imitate maybe a game or something, little competitiv­e drills.”

Sullivan said he and the coaching staff put together a game plan based on what they expect the secondroun­d schedule to look like.

“I think it’s a little bit twofold,” Sullivan said. “It’s recovery, but it’s also getting these guys and continuing to keep these guys in a competitiv­e environmen­t where we push the pace in practice. We get them in some competitiv­e battle drills that are game-like so they continue to experience that workload that’s necessary in a game scenario.”

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