Murray is healthy, but Fleury ‘deserves the right to play’


Back in November, Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford admitted that the Penguins’ two-goalie system wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped.

Flash forward to the present, though, and Rutherford is sure glad he didn’t break down and trade Marc-Andre Fleury.

After all, Matt Murray was hurt for most of the first two rounds of the playoffs, and Fleury saved the day.

“I’m very happy we have the two goalies we have, but I never changed my position from the start of camp. I never wavered on it,” Rutherford said today. “I had some calls during the season asking about him. Those conversations didn’t go very far.

“I know there were times during the season where it became a little more difficult for the coaching staff and for the goalies because they both wanted to play. And when they were both healthy, it didn’t work ideal because one guy maybe sat a little longer than he wanted. But as it’s turned out, it’s worked good for both guys.”

Fleury is 8-4 with a .927 save percentage this postseason. And while Murray is healthy enough to back up now, the Penguins are expected to start the veteran Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa.

“I think Marc deserves the right to play,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “He’s played so well for us, and he’s really at the top of his game. But having said that, we have Matt who’s a quality goaltender as well. Just like all of our players on our team, we can’t predict how series unfold or what comes our way. So we just want to have as many healthy bodies as we can available to us to help us win.”

Related: Fleury could be good option for Flames … or even Flyers

Capitals meet with media Friday, and it was predictably depressing


An annual tradition at this point, the Washington Capitals met the media today and wondered how it all went wrong.

There was anger. Frustration. Even some gallows humor, after the Capitals failed once again to get past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Two days ago, the Presidents’ Trophy winners blew it big time in a Game 7 shutout loss to Pittsburgh at Verizon Center.

“We should be angry,” longtime forward Nicklas Backstrom told reporters. “You should be mad.”

“Mentally, we have to get over it and stop crumbling in certain situations,” added defenseman John Carlson.

D-man Karl Alzner said that a lot of his teammates still hadn’t shaved because they were hoping it was all a big joke and that the Caps were actually still playing.

Some more:

If there was any actual news to come out of today’s postmortem, it’s that Alex Ovechkin suffered a hamstring injury in Game 3 against the Penguins. He also banged up his knee on that hit by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in the first round. But he won’t need surgery. Just rest.

“It’s time take a deep breath, take some time off and get back to work,” Ovechkin said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic.

Read more: Ovechkin won’t join Russia at Worlds due to lower-body injury

Head coach Barry Trotz is scheduled to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. ET. And that could be interesting, given what he said Wednesday about Ovechkin.

Related: Caps facing the prospect of a decline

Stars give Bishop six-year contract worth almost $30 million


Jim Nill better be right this time.

The Dallas Stars have signed goalie Ben Bishop to a six-year, $29.5 million contract.

Nill, the Stars’ general manager, traded for Bishop’s negotiating rights earlier this week, targeting the pending unrestricted free agent in the same way Carolina targeted Scott Darling.

“As I stated previously, Ben is an elite goaltender in this league and we’re thrilled to be adding him to our mix,” said Nill in a statement. “Ben’s commitment to what we are building in Dallas, and his passion for wanting to be a part of it, was evident during the negotiating process. We are excited to have him under contract for the next six seasons.”

Bishop, 30, split 2016-17 between the Lightning and Kings, finishing 18-15-5 with a .910 save percentage. His career NHL save percentage is .919.

Goaltending, of course, has been a major weakness for the Stars. Two years ago, Nill signed Antti Niemi to a three-year, $13.5 million contract, with the hope Niemi and Kari Lehtonen could form an effective tandem.

It didn’t work out, and now Niemi may be getting bought out.

If Niemi does get bought out and Lehtonen remains, the Stars will have over $12 million in cap space allocated to goalies next season.

Stars goalies over last three seasons

Related: Bishop has ‘good relationship’ with Ken Hitchcock

Paul Kariya makes rare visit to Ducks’ rink for promo video


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Paul Kariya has pulled on an Anaheim Ducks jersey again to show his support for their playoff run.

Kariya has rarely been around hockey since the high-scoring forward’s remarkable playing career ended due to a series of concussions. He surprisingly appeared in a promotional video for the Ducks on Thursday, shortly after they advanced to the Western Conference finals.

In the wordless video, Kariya joins with Orange County resident Kai Quinonez to paint an orange “X” over a “9” in the Honda Center rafters. The numerals symbolize the 16 victories necessary to win the Stanley Cup.

The Ducks have been eager to welcome Kariya back to the franchise in some capacity for several years, but the Southern California resident has kept a distance from hockey since his last game in 2010.

Read more: Selanne says Kariya ‘very bitter about hockey’

Kariya was the Mighty Ducks’ first major star during nine high-scoring seasons with the club, teaming with Teemu Selanne as one of the NHL’s most exciting tandems. Kariya is still among the most beloved players in Ducks franchise history, with his No. 9 jersey popping up regularly at Honda Center.

After playing for Anaheim in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, Kariya left as a free agent and was occasionally booed when he returned to Orange County. He played for Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis before retiring with 989 career points in 989 games.

Post-concussion syndrome ended the 42-year-old Kariya’s career prematurely. He has told Selanne and other friends that he is still upset about the NHL’s handling of head injuries during his time in the game.

Although Kariya didn’t even attend Selanne’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2015, he has played various roles in other charity endeavors for the Ducks – although nothing as prominent as this video.

Quinonez first got to skate with the Ducks as a 13-year-old in 2015 through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He now plays on a team in the Ducks’ high school hockey league.

Botterill to use Penguins’ NHL-AHL relationship as model for Sabres


For the Buffalo Sabres to succeed, the Rochester Americans will also have to succeed.

That was the message today from new general manager Jason Botterill, who comes to the Sabres after a decade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Botterill was most recently the associate GM of the Penguins, with responsibilities ranging from scouting to contract negotiations to salary-cap management. However, he also served as GM of the AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, and we all know the importance the Baby Pens have played in the Big Pens’ recent success.

Now he wants to bring that model to Buffalo.

“I think one of the successes of the organization that I’m coming from is the relationship between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh,” said Botterill. “We want to re-strengthen the relationship with Rochester and Buffalo.”

The Americans, like the Sabres, have struggled in recent years. This past season, the AHL team missed the playoffs for the third straight time. The NHL team last made the postseason in 2011.

While Botterill obviously sees room for improvement in a lot of areas, he does really like one thing about the Sabres, and that’s their top two centers. Coming from a team that won championships with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it’s no wonder he’s excited to have Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly.

“This is a league that thrives on centerman,” he said. “The fortunate thing here is we have a couple of amazing high-end centermen.”

The defense, on the other hand, needs a lot of work. But at least Rasmus Ristolainen is there.

Botterill, who replaces Tim Murray as GM, is aiming to hire a head coach to replace Dan Bylsma before next month’s draft.

What he wants in that coach is someone who will educate the players, but also someone that will lay down the law when necessary.

Communication will be key, and so will “presence.”

“Making sure the players understand the head coach is in control,” said Botterill, “and certainly leading the charge.”

It should be noted that, in 2015, Botterill hired Mike Sullivan to coach Wilkes-Barre, and that decision worked out rather well for the Penguins.

It should also be noted that, after cleaning house last month, Sabres owner Terry Pegula said that “discipline, structure, communication and character” would be the pillars of the club going forward. No more dysfunction would be tolerated.

As far as next season’s goals, Botterill simply wants improvement and competitiveness. When asked when the Sabres might compete for a Stanley Cup, he wasn’t willing to offer a prediction.

“We will be better,” he said. “But at the same token, I have a lot of respect for this league, and there are some teams that didn’t make the playoffs this year that will be better next year.

“I came from an environment in Pittsburgh where, yes, we had success the past couple of years, but for numerous years, we didn’t achieve those results or we had injuries.

“To me, the goal of the organization needs to be year-in-year-out competing at a high level, and in one of those years you break through.”

Related: What will the Sabres do with Evander Kane?