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Back-up goalie battle takes center stage as Penguins set to begin preseason schedule |

Back-up goalie battle takes center stage as Penguins set to begin preseason schedule

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Stars’ Alexander Radulov beat Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith in the second period Sunday, March 11, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

The battle for the back-up goaltending spot is about to heat up in Penguins training camp.

The Penguins begin their six-game preseason schedule with games Tuesday night in Buffalo and Wednesday night in Detroit.

Goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry, locked in a competition to back up Matt Murray on opening night, will likely get plenty of opportunities to show what they can do.

Because of the personnel the Penguins have on their coaching staff and in the front office, the evaluation process for DeSmith and Jarry is a little bit different than it might be with other teams.

Around the league, the lead evaluator of goaltenders is usually the team’s goalie coach. That’s the case with the Penguins too – Mike Buckley’s opinion is well respected – but there’s a key difference. Assistant coach Jacques Martin and general manager Jim Rutherford were goalies in their playing days.

There are plenty of trained eyes on the goalies at all times, not just in exhibition games.

“It’s how they perform in these scrimmages and also how they’ve performed in practice,” Martin said. “They’re evaluated constantly on their attitude, their performance, whether it’s in the scrimmage or the preseason game coming up. It’s the whole thing. You hope their performance will dictate who’s going to get that job at the end of training camp.”

As the battle plays out, each candidate has his strengths and weaknesses.

DeSmith has performance on his side. His .923 save percentage last season eclipsed Jarry’s .908 decisively. He’s the incumbent, having backed up Murray down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Jarry greatest strength is his potential. He’s a second-round pick with a championship pedigree in juniors and a high ceiling. He’s also 6-foot-2. DeSmith is 6-foot on his tip-toes.

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

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