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Matt Murray cleared for full practice with Penguins

Goaltender recovering from broken hand, no timetable set for return

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray took part in an optional practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Wednesday and coach Mike Sullivan said he has been cleared to participate in a full practice.

Murray has been out since breaking his hand playing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Sept. 19.

The Penguins announced the severity of injury Sept. 24 and said Murray would need 3-6 weeks to recover. 

"I felt good," Murray said. "It's always nice to get back to practice. It's been a while. [I was] getting a little frustrated I guess. But it always feels really good to be back out there. … It was a good day today. I'm progressing slowly, but no real time frame."

In Murray's absence, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury started all four Penguins games, going 2-1-1 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Mike Condon has been the backup.

Video: Hear what Murray has to say after practice

Seeing Fleury play well hasn't bothered Murray, he said, even though the two are expected to compete for the starting role once he is healthy. 

"[Fleury] deserves to be playing all these games," Murray said. "He's been lights out for us. Even in a game like [4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday], he's the reason we didn't lose by a lot bigger margin. He's been phenomenal."

When Murray replaced Fleury following Fleury's second concussion of the season March 31, Fleury expressed frustration regarding his inability to play. On Wednesday, it was Murray's turn to be frustrated about missing time.

"Any time you have to watch your team play and you don't get a chance to get out there, it's frustrating," Murray said. "But it's something I can't control. I don't want to push back too hard and reaggravate it or reinjure it in any way. That's been a big challenge for sure. It's been frustrating to just kind of skate by yourself with no real shooters, but that's all I could do."

While he recovers, Murray said he is glad the Penguins are in Fleury's hands.

Video: PIT@MTL: Fleury denies Shaw with terrific pad save

"I think our personalities just match up really well," he said. "We're both easy-going. It's hard not to get along with [Fleury]. He's one of the nicest guys I've met. He's so experienced and he's done so much in this league. He's won so many games. He's done everything. He's a really calming presence for the team during a game or even in the dressing room. 

"He was that mentor for me last year. I said that a lot throughout the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and I meant it. I don't know where the team would be without [Fleury]."

Because Murray isn't threatened by Fleury's strong start, he's been able to focus on healing. Murray is wearing a split on the thumb on his right (blocker) hand. When he first discussed his injury Sept. 26, Murray said the break made it difficult to properly grasp his stick. Now with the splint, he said that isn't as much of an issue.

"It feels pretty good," Murray said. "It keeps my thumb nice and stable. It actually gives me some pretty good power when I lean into my shot or am aggressive with my stick in front of the net. So yeah, it feels pretty comfortable. I've been wearing it for a while now, so it feels pretty normal now."

Though he was pleased with his work Wednesday, Murray looks forward to joining a full practice. He said he'll need a few practices before feeling comfortable enough to consider returning for a game.

"It's a day-to-day type of thing," Murray said. "You can come back one day and maybe it's a lot more sore than what it usually is and you may have to ease off a little bit. It's just about getting the pace back a little bit and getting in a real practice and taking it step by step."

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