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Team confident Fleury will rebound

Monday, 06.08.2009 / 3:39 PM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- There's no reason to believe that Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury won't rebound in a big way on Tuesday with his team's season on the line.

Fact is, whenever Fleury has allowed four-or-more goals in a playoff game this spring -- something that had occurred four times in 21 matches prior to Saturday's loss -- he has been flawless the following game. In four victories following those not-so-dynamic-performances, Fleury posted a 1.75 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

What this says is if the Penguins stay out of the penalty box and play their type of game -- the one they showcased in the opening 10 minutes of Game 5 in Detroit before falling apart -- Fleury will most certainly give them a chance to extend this series to a seventh game on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh goaltending coach Gilles Meloche is certain of that. The fact Fleury was pulled in the second period of Game 5 after yielding five goals on 21 shots in 35:40 of action makes no difference to the third-season goalie coach. It marked the first time Fleury was pulled from a playoff game since his postseason debut on April 11, 2007, a 6-3 Game 1 loss at Ottawa. Fleury would lead the Pens to a 4-3 victory in Game 2 of that series on 34 saves.

"I think he'll rebound well because in games where he gets scored on or he feels he could have had one or two of the goals, he's done it the next game," Meloche told NHL.com. "We had a good practice (Monday) and mentally he's back to his old self, so I'm not worried about him."

Fleury's demeanor off the ice is what makes him so special in the eyes of Meloche.

"Everyday he comes to the rink, it's a new day," he said. "He's not worried about what happened yesterday. He's present every day and plays his own game and is having fun out there, and when he's having fun that's when he plays his best."

The 24-year-old Fleury was certainly his old chipper self on Monday during his team's morning skate -- looking sharp and focused as usual. It's what coach Dan Bylsma has come to expect of the fourth-season goalie.

"Every day Marc comes to practice, he relishes and enjoys stopping the guys when they come down the wing," Bylsma said. "Sometimes they go in and sometimes Sidney Crosby does score on him, but he gets another chance right after and he's ready for it. I know he's the type of guy who's going to be ready for Game 6. He's going to be focused, and he's going to want to go out there and play the best game of the series."

Through 22 games in the playoffs, Fleury is 14-8 with a 2.76 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. He leads all goalies in minutes and shots faced in the playoffs. But he's had his work cut out for him against Detroit.

"The Wings have skill and they don't waste shots," Meloche said. "They make the good plays and a lot of times, their shots look innocent, but they're just well-placed because they're trying to hit the spot instead of just trying to put it through the goalies. They also provide good screens in front of the goalies -- they are just an experienced team."

Bill Guerin, who has chipped in with seven goals and 15 points in 22 postseason games, knows Fleury didn't receive the proper support in Game 5, but anticipated that will change on Tuesday.

"I think (Fleury) is going to be just fine," Guerin said. "This is a guy who comes in literally fresh every day -- every day is a new day. He's always got a smile on his face and he's ready to go. I think he'll be absolutely fine. He's got a great type personality to let things just roll off his shoulders and refocus and have fun with it."

Defenseman Mark Eaton agreed Saturday night is in the past as far as Fleury is concerned.

"He'll be fine -- most of what happened (in Game 5) was nothing he could do about anyways," Eaton said. "It was breakdowns, power-plays and us not being able to control our emotions, so it wasn't him at all. It was the team in front of him that needs to shore some things up but he's going to be fine."

"I think he'll rebound well because in games where he gets scored on or he feels he could have had one or two of the goals, he's done it the next game. We had a good practice (Monday) and mentally he's back to his old self, so I'm not worried about him." -- Penguins goalie coach Gilles Melcohe on Marc-Andre Fleury
Meloche is proud of how Fleury has adjusted his game to the point that he has become one the League's most admired goaltenders.

"Over time, he has shown less motion in his game and, instead, has allowed the puck to come to him," Meloche said. "He used to try to stop everything within five feet of the net before it reached him, but he's learning to let the puck come to him. Every year, I've seen the improvement in his game, and he's still young. He's still going to learn, and the more you play the slower the game gets in front of you. It's getting to that point now, and I predict nothing but bright lights for him in the future."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.

 
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