The Penguins are preparing to head to Washington to play the rival Capitals in the second round of the post-season, and while nothing is set in stone, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury might not be able to suit up for Pittsburgh in Game 1 as he's still battling back from a concussion.
Fleury, 31, has been sidelined since the beginning of April with a concussion, and he told media Monday that he’s still experiencing some of the symptoms of the head injury. Fleury’s concussion dates back to a March 31 game against the Nashville Predators, and it was the second time this season — and second time in four months — that Fleury sustained a head injury. The first concussion caused him to miss eight games and he’s already in double digits with the current injury.
“It’s one of the toughest things I’ve been though,” Fleury said. “There are some good days where you think you’re back, and bad days where you think it’s never going to get fixed. Lots of ups and downs. And in the playoffs, it’s such a fun time of year to play hockey and every game is so intense and meaningful. It’s tough to just be watching.”
Coach Mike Sullivan wouldn’t get into the specifics of Fleury’s injury, or what has been the deciding factor between the Penguins goaltender skating or not skating. Sullivan added he has faith in the team’s medical staff to know how to properly rehab the players.
Dealing with the head injury has probably been made more difficult for Fleury given that he at one time seemed so close to returning. Ahead of Game 1 of the post-season, he was in full equipment and practicing with the team and that continued on through the first few games of the first-round series against the New York Rangers. However, Fleury wasn’t even practicing with his teammates by Game 4, and while he skated ahead of Game 5, Fleury did so without full equipment.
The loss of Fleury hasn’t stung the Penguins too much given that rookie netminder Matt Murray has stepped up and turned in some stellar performances throughout the season, and the first-year goaltender went 3-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and .955 save percentage against the Rangers. That said, there’s no doubt Pittsburgh would love to have Fleury back, especially as he’s coming off of one of the best statistical seasons of his career. In 58 regular season games, Fleury turned in a 2.29 GAA, .921 SP and five shutouts to go along with a 35-17-6 record.
Pittsburgh and Washington have only met once before in the playoffs post-lockout, and Fleury was the netminder for the Penguins in that series during the 2008-09 post-season. In seven games, Fleury allowed 22 goals on 180 shots and had a 3.01 GAA and .878 SP. The Penguins managed to win the series, and went to win the Stanley Cup that season.