Penguins notebook: GM Rutherford hints at plans for goalie prospect Murray |

Penguins notebook: GM Rutherford hints at plans for goalie prospect Murray

Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray talks with Jeff Zatkoff and Chris Kunitz before a shoot-out against the Maple Leafs Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save during the second period against the Maple Leafs Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.

As the rest of the Penguins relaxed, free from a game or practice Monday, Matt Murray remained a man on the move.

Murray, the organization’s top goaltending prospect, headed back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton about 24 hours after the Penguins recalled him before Sunday’s 4-3 win in Buffalo. His return to the Baby Pens gives him a chance to start Tuesday night when the team hosts Hershey.

“We want him to play as many games as he can,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We’ll make a decision near the end of the week (about what to do) with him. If (Marc-Andre) Fleury had still been sick (Sunday), Murray was recalled, and he would’ve played that game.”

Fleury’s illness kept him out of Saturday’s loss to Tampa Bay, a game in which backup Jeff Zatkoff struggled to stop shots from the point. Murray’s change in plans required him to stop about 76 miles west of his scheduled destination, Rochester, where the Baby Pens met the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate Sunday.

Coach Mike Sullivan’s decision to list Murray, rather than Zatkoff, as the backup signaled a potential shift in the depth chart. But Sullivan declined to discuss the possibilities beyond that day’s lineup.

Asked if the Penguins plan to carry three goaltenders on their roster for the remainder of the season, Rutherford answered, “We haven’t made that decision. You’ll see more of Matt Murray after the deadline.”

Beginning with next week’s games on consecutive days against Arizona and Washington, the Penguins have four back-to-back game situations in March, so whomever backs up Marc-Andre Fleury will see time in the net.

Pointed attack

In the loss to Tampa Bay and the win over Buffalo, the Penguins’ opponent found success with shots from the point.

Zatkoff cited trouble seeing around screens as part of the reason he allowed four goals to the Lightning.

The Sabres’ Zach Bogosian twice blasted shots from just inside the blue line past Fleury, and Buffalo’s other goal came when Brian Gionta, situated near the net-front, tipped a shot from Bogosian.

No alarms are sounding for the Penguins. Sullivan simply wants his skaters to stay aware of how much traffic teams create in front of the Penguins’ goaltenders.

Stirred, not shaken

After he started Phil Kessel on Sidney Crosby’s wing and watched the duo find success in Thursday’s win over Detroit, Sullivan explained that he and his staff had pondered the combination before they decided to put it on the ice.

As the Penguins struggled during their loss Saturday to Tampa Bay, Sullivan scrambled the top two forward lines and said afterward he hoped to create a spark. Matt Cullen, who became the second-line center in Evgeni Malkin’s absence, found Kessel and Carl Hagelin on his wings again but also spent time with Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz.

The status quo prevailed Sunday in Buffalo as Sullivan embraced the lines that have sufficed for the Penguins during most of the past two months. Kunitz and Hornqvist stayed with Crosby. Hagelin and Kessel skated with Cullen.

As they continue to proceed without Malkin, the Penguins trust their coach’s signal sending.

“You expect it,” Cullen said. “When things aren’t going and if it’s getting a little stale, it’s a good way to try to trigger something, spark something. One guy may have his legs that night, and the other may not. To kind of move it around sometimes gives you a different look.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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