Penguins’ Sullivan picks DeSmith over Murray for Saturday night showdown in Tampa |

Penguins’ Sullivan picks DeSmith over Murray for Saturday night showdown in Tampa

Jonathan Bombulie
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith gets a drink after Ottawa Senators’ Matt Duchene scored on him on a breakaway during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won 5-3.

TAMPA, Fla. – Matt Murray is medically cleared to return from an upper-body injury, but he’ll back up Casey DeSmith as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

Throwing Murray into the fire against a potent Lightning offense after he sat out Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s game at Florida would have been a difficult assignment, but coach Mike Sullivan said that’s not necessarily why he gave DeSmith the nod Saturday.

“Do we talk about our opponents? Yes, but that doesn’t weigh in to the main part of the decision,” Sullivan said. “It’s more about putting our players in positions where they can be at their best and be successful, but also putting the best players on the ice that are going to give us the best chance to win on any given night.”

Sullivan said DeSmith’s performance is a bigger factor, both over the course of the season and recently.

Among goalies who have made at least 25 starts this season, DeSmith is eighth in the league with a .918 save percentage.

Since the all-star break, DeSmith is 1-0-1 with a .927 save percentage while Murray is 1-3-0 with a .893.

“Casey’s played extremely well,” Sullivan said. “When you look at Casey’s numbers to this point, he’s played 30 games, his save percentage is top 10 in the league. His last two outings, he’s had .929, .925 save percentage. He’s given us a chance to win. We think both of our guys right now are giving us a chance to win. We think it’s the best decision for both guys at this time.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.