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Penguins notebook: Sullivan waits to name Game 1 starting goalie

Apparently, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan viewed his news conference ahead of Game 6 in the second-round series against the Washington Capitals as a special occasion because he announced his starting goaltender more than 24 hours in advance of that eventual 4-3 overtime win.

He chose Thursday to use more coy comments about who might mind the net in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.

“I’ll probably announce it (Friday),” Sullivan said of his starter for Friday’s 8 p.m. game at Consol Energy Center.

The decision to name Matt Murray well ahead of the Penguins’ second-series finale broke from Sullivan’s track record of gamesmanship and seemed to quell a media-driven buzz about whether Marc-Andre Fleury, fully recovered from his concussion and available as a lineup option since Game 3 against the Capitals, represented a better choice.

Murray made 36 saves in the clincher.

Asked whether a new series presented him an opportunity to view the lineup as a clean slate, Sullivan indicated it did not.

“I’m not sure it is different (than mid-series lineup decisions),” Sullivan said. “I think it’s not unlike any other position that we discuss when we make a lineup decision. We’re trying to make the best lineup decisions that we think gives this team the best chance to win. We have these discussions internally. … I think we’re very fortunate because we have the options that we have. We’ve got very capable people at a lot of positions, but goaltending in particular, we’ve got three guys (Murray, Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff) that have helped us win and been significant contributors to getting this team to where it is at this point.”

Art of the deal

Jim Rutherford made sure to poke some fun at his own history of trades before members of the media tackled the issue after the Penguins general manager’s news conference at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

Rutherford knows the public perception of his decision-making on deals probably won’t get any better than it is right now, with forwards Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino and defensemen Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz regarded as savvy acquisitions and valuable contributors for the Penguins.

Rutherford also knows he’s one of the few GMs who aggressively swaps players in an increasingly cautious league.

“It certainly is a lot more difficult to make player transactions now in the cap system,” Rutherford said. “And the further you go into a cap system, the harder it gets, because you have to sign players to certain contracts that you’re not always totally comfortable with. You may have to give him an extra year or whatever, or you’re going to lose them. So it does become more difficult.

“In our case, we had to get creative. The one deal with Chicago, we had to take back money on (Rob) Scuderi to make that deal work. In some ways, our misfortune early in the year with (Pascal Dupuis, who retired because of blood clot-related complications) became our good fortune as we went along, because it opened up the opportunity to have more cap space and make deals. If that injury hadn’t happened and we couldn’t put him on (long-time injured reserve), we couldn’t do it.”

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


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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray gets beat by a Alex Ovechkin shot during game 5 of the Eastern Conference second-round playoff series Saturday, May 7, 2016 at Verizon Center.
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