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Penguins' Fleury looks to blossom in Vancouver

by Dan Rosen
Marc-Andre Fleury would love a chance to erase the one lasting image he can't seem to hide from.
In the 2004 World Juniors' gold-medal game against Team USA, you may remember that Team Canada's Fleury rang the puck off defenseman Braydon Coburn and couldn't scurry back to the crease in time to get it before it crossed the goal line. It proved to be the winning goal for the Americans and the gaffe remains one of the few crutches in his career.
It doesn't help that he gets to see it on TSN or the NHL Network around Christmas every year when the World Juniors begin. It's not fun.
"I have seen it so many times on TV, and it's not a great memory to have," Fleury told "I'm looking forward to having a chance to change that up."
The question is will he get that chance in Vancouver later this month?
Fleury, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning goalie, is widely regarded as Canada's third goalie even though he has had more recent success in pressure games than the supposed top two, Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo.
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock has not publicly stated who his No. 1 will be, but the consensus is that everyone would be shocked if it's not Brodeur, with Luongo as his backup.
Fleury sure hopes that's not the case.
"You put me in a tough spot, but it doesn't matter what I think," Fleury said. "They make the decisions and I'll be happy with whatever they do. I'd love to play. Definitely that would be awesome and hopefully I can, but if I don't I'm not going to go cry somewhere."
Fleury said he and Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby sat down with Babcock when the Red Wings were in Pittsburgh for the NHL on NBC game last Sunday. But specifics of his playing time were never discussed even though Fleury is curious.
Entering Saturday's games, Brodeur owned a 33-17-2 record with a 2.24 GAA and .918 save percentage. Luongo was 29-15-2 with a 2.33 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Fleury, who missed four games last month with a broken finger, carried a 28-15-1 record with a 2.59 GAA and .908 save percentage.
Luongo was the only one who hadn't experienced a ton of success in the shootout this season. He was just 50 percent (4-for-8) while Fleury had stopped 15 of 16 shooters (93.3 percent) and Brodeur was good on 19 of 26 (73.1 percent).
"It would be nice to know what to expect, but at the same time it doesn't bother me that much," Fleury said. "I'll find out someday at some point. I don't want to make too much of a big deal about it."
Even without any promises, this past week was incredibly busy for Fleury. He handled numerous phone interviews and photo shoots all relating to the Olympics. He has had to answer many questions about Crosby, but really, when doesn't he?
One thing is for certain: The humble goalie with the wide smile loves the hype and he can't wait to get to the Olympics.
"These days have been pretty crazy," Fleury said. "There has been more media coverage of the Olympics. It's coming pretty soon, so people are getting excited about it. It's really cool, though. I'm looking forward to going there."
Fleury said he has talked to former Team USA player Bill Guerin, his teammate in Pittsburgh, about what the Olympic experience is like. He's been told to enjoy it and never take the experience for granted.
He can't wait to live in the Olympic village and to walk out to the ice surface with all of Canada watching, not to mention 20,000 screaming fanatics covered in Canada's colors that were lucky enough to score tickets to be inside Hockey Canada Place.
Of course, as the third goalie, he may not get that chance. But Fleury isn't thinking about things like that now.
"Just going on the ice and being in Canada, I know from playing in junior, how loud it can get," Fleury said. "Now it's for the Olympics and we'll have our home crowd there. I'm sure that will be a thrill. To be able to live it, see what it is like, meet other athletes from other sports. That will be pretty cool."
Even if he doesn't get in a game at the Olympics, Fleury can already say this experience will be once in a lifetime, not only for where he'll be, but for who he will be around.
He's still very much a shy kid at heart, so forgive Fleury if even he'll be a bit star-struck in the dressing room when he's next to Brodeur and Luongo. They're both French-Canadians like Fleury, and Brodeur was his idol as he was growing up.
"Last summer we had the orientation camp so I got to meet them a little bit there, and I was so impressed by them," Fleury said. "They are big deals. It was weird to be with them and talking with them, but they were real nice and real cool guys. I'm looking forward to seeing them again. I'm lucky to have a chance to spend some time with them."
But most of all, he'd like to play over them. It's not his call, but Fleury is headed to Vancouver with the expectation that he's going to stand between the pipes in a gold medal game even if all of Canada has already locked him in at No. 3.
"Personally, it doesn't matter what is going to happen," Fleury said. "I just want to win."
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