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Murray expected in goal for Penguins

Pittsburgh likely to stick with rookie goalie against Lightning in Game 1 of conference final

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent


Eastern Conference Final

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray likely will start against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center on Friday.

Murray, 21, has started Pittsburgh's past nine games, winning seven, with a 2.05 goals-against average and .935 save percentage since returning from an upper-body injury April 19. He won three of four starts with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as his backup, including Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Second Round, when he made an NHL career-high 47 saves in a 3-2 win.

After occupying the crease normally reserved for the starting goalie during Pittsburgh's optional Friday morning skate, Murray left the ice before Fleury.

"I've watched him, both in [Wilkes/Barre-Scranton of the American Hockey League] and here in Pittsburgh," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "If he thinks he should have had a save or one gets by him, it doesn't impact the next play or the next save. He responds the right way to that sort of adversity. I think that speaks to his maturity."

Penguins forward Matt Cullen was with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 when that team won the Stanley Cup with a rookie goaltender in Cam Ward. He said he sees similarities between his current team and the Hurricanes from 10 years ago.

"Our depth up front especially is one thing that really stands out," Cullen said. "In [2006] we were a pretty dynamic team. We had a lot of guys that could score, a lot of depth in scoring. We have that here and that's been big. And with the young kid stepping into the net and playing, that's pretty familiar too. We had that with Cam Ward that year. It's fun. It brings back a lot of memories."

Fleury has not played since sustaining his second concussion of the season against the Nashville Predators on March 31. His 98 games and 53 wins in the playoffs are second all-time among Penguins goalies, and he was in goal when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and J.T. Brown (upper body), and defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured left fibula) each participated in an optional morning skate Friday.

Stamkos said he feels good but will not play in Game 1. He has not played since surgery April 4 to remove a blood clot from near his right collarbone. He is on blood thinner medication and can't play until he's off of it.

"I'm hoping," Stamkos said of possibly playing during the series. "That's the frustrating part, it's just not knowing. But I am hopeful that it can be this series."

Stralman also is not expected to play in Game 1.

Brown, who has not played since April 15, said he is feeling better but did not disclose his availability for Game 1.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper did not speak to the media after practice.

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan

Erik Condra - Vladislav Namestnikov - J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman - Matt Carle

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Slater Koekkoek - Braydon Coburn

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Steven Stamkos (blood clot), Anton Stralman (fractured left fibula)

Scratched: Mike Blunden, Jonathan Marchessault, Nikita Nesterov, Matt Taormina, Luke Witkowski


Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Eric Fehr

Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Bryan Rust

Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Trevor Daley

Ian Cole - Ben Lovejoy

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injured: Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body)

Scratched: Jeff Zatkoff, Derrick Pouliot, Justin Schultz, Oskar Sundqvist, Beau Bennett

Status report: Sullivan said Thursday that Porter and Wilson, who have not played since March 3 and March 11, respectively, are healing.

Who's hot: Kessel had two goals and an assist in a Pittsburgh's 4-3 overtime win in the series-clinching Game 6 win against the Washington Capitals. He leads the Penguins with 12 points and is tied for the lead with five goals. … Hedman scored twice in the Lightning's 4-0 win in Game 5 against the New York Islanders on Sunday to end that series. He has four goals and seven points in his past four games.

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