Goalie nods: Fleury looks to break out of recent slump for Penguins

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After back-to-back wins for Matt Murray, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going back to Marc-Andre Fleury in net on Thursday night when they host the Minnesota Wild.

This remains the most fascinating goaltending situation in the league right now.

Both goalies have backstopped the team to a Stanley Cup, both goalies are worthy of being the No. 1 guy right now, and it was always going to be a challenge for head coach Mike Sullivan to figure out how to get everybody the playing time they want (and deserve).

In the end, it’s most likely going to come down to which goalie is simply “the hot hand” and playing the better hockey at a given time, which is probably what makes this kind of an important start for Fleury.

After a strong start to the season where he was arguably the Penguins’ best player through their first few games, his play has cooled off considerably over the past couple of weeks. After stopping 73 of the first 77 shots he faced in his first two starts (a .948 save percentage), he has managed only an .895 save percentage in the eight starts that have followed, with the Penguins only winning four of those games. It would be unfair to put all of that on Fleury because the Penguins’ defense was out of sorts earlier in the year, especially while their No. 1 defenseman (Kris Letang) was sidelined with an injury.

But it also wouldn’t be unfair to say that he simply has not been quite as sharp as he was earlier in the year.

With Murray returning from injury and playing extremely well in his first three starts of the season (a .957 save percentage and three wins, including a recent shutout in San Jose) it would not be a shock to see him get a little more playing time in the short-term if Fleury’s numbers stay at their current level.

Minnesota will be going with Devan Dubnyk who has given up just seven goals in his past seven starts, and only three in his past five.

Elsewhere…

— No official word out of the Carolina-Anaheim game but you should look for Cam Ward (Hurricanes) and John Gibson (Ducks) to occupy the two nets.

— It’s going to be a matchup of two of the best goalies in the league so far this season when Tuukka Rask goes for the Boston Bruins when they host Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

James Reimer is expected to make his fifth start of the season for the Florida Panthers when they take on the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks. The Sharks will be going with Martin Jones as he looks to build off of his 24-save shutout against Washington the other night.

— One of the more interesting games on the schedule on Thursday is in Montreal when the Canadiens host the Los Angeles Kings. Carey Price looks to improve to 9-0-0 on the season for the Canadiens and enters the game having lost just two of his past 20 starts going back to the start of the 2015-16 season. The Kings will stick with Peter Budaj as he continues to fill in for injured starter Jonathan Quick.

— The Red Wings are going to continue to ride the hot hand that is Jimmy Howard when they face the struggling Canucks. Howard enters play on Thursday with a league-best .958 save percentage in five starts this season. Vancouver will counter with Ryan Miller.

Jaroslav Halak looks to get another win after snapping a personal four-game losing streak on Monday when he goes for the New York Islanders against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay is going with backup Andrei Vasilevskiy as Ben Bishop gets a night off.

Former teammates Carter Hutton and Pekka Rinne are the goaltending matchup in Nashville when the Predators host the Blues. Nashville seems to be getting back on track recently but gets a tough test on Thursday against one of the top teams in the NHL.

Kari Lehtonen has lost each of his past five starts for the Dallas Stars, but he will get a chance to snap that streak on Thursday when he gets the call against Brian Elliott and the Calgary Flames.

— In the battle of the old Jets (the Arizona Coyotes) against the new Jets (Winnipeg 2.0) it will be Louis Domingue in net for Arizona being opposed by Connor Hellebuyck.

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