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Conklin happy to be back at the .500 mark

Tuesday, 01.01.2008 / 7:45 PM / 2008 NHL Winter Classic

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With Tuesday's 2-1 win in Buffalo, Ty Conklin now has a .500 record in outdoor games.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – For the record, Ty Conklin no longer is the losingest goalie in outdoor hockey history.

“Thank God, I got it back to .500,” the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie said with a chuckle.

Conklin last took to the outdoor ice Nov. 22, 2003, at the Heritage Classic, played at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Starting for the Oilers that day, he allowed four goals on 27 shots in a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

At the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic Tuesday, he was far better, stopping 36 of 37 shots, including seven each in the third period and in overtime, when the Pens had to kill off a two-minute penalty to Colby Armstrong called at the horn ending regulation.

“A lot of time your goalie has to be your biggest penalty killer and get the stops,” said Sidney Crosby.

In the shootout, Conklin smothered Tim Connolly’s wrister and went low to glove Maxim Afinogenov’s shot.

Those are the kind of stops he didn’t make the last time he played outside. The cold that day in Edmonton made it hard to move as his pads literally started to freeze.

“I can’t speak for everybody else, because I’m sure there were guys that felt great, but I was cold,” said Conklin. “The whole experience in Edmonton was awesome, just like today, for everybody was awesome. There wasn’t one time I was really cold (Tuesday). A few chills once in a while, but that’s about it.”

“Feels a lot better after a win than it does a loss,” he added of surviving another day in the cold.

Conklin now has started all four games on the Pens’ current win streak.

“He’s playing very well and we’ve had success,” said Penguins coach Michel Therrien. “Certainly he’s playing at a level that gives us a chance to win, and he makes some key saves at the right time during the game. He made some key saves in overtime where we have to kill the penalty, so he’s a big part of it.”

He also had a bit of an incentive playing against the Sabres and Ryan Miller, who Conklin backed up last season before signing as a free agent with the Penguins this summer. In five games with the Sabres, he went 1-2 with a 3.44 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.

“Ty was great for us,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s a great guy. I’m happy for him. I’m not happy about what he did to us the last couple games, but I’m not surprised because he had a history of playing some good hockey. And I think he had added incentive.”

“I hope it adds to our team’s confidence level,” Conklin said of his run of good play, which includes a personal five-game win streak since getting recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton following an injury to starter Marc-Andre Fleury. Conklin has allowed just 10 goals in the five starts, and Saturday night posted a 26-save shutout at Mellon Arena in the first game of the home-and-home series with the Sabres to give him a 4-0 record with a 2.71 GAA and .917 save percentage at the time.

“He’s done an amazing job since he’s got in there,” said Crosby. “We certainly feel comfortable with him in there.”

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres