It looks like Pittsburgh Penguins goalie prospect Matt Murray will have a chance to break his American Hockey League shutout-streak record by returning to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.
The Penguins plan to keep Murray in the AHL rather than use him as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup.
"He's not coming in here and beating out Marc-Andre Fleury and taking over this team," assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald told the Penguins website in remarks published Wednesday. "We love what we have down the line here, and it is down the line. He just turned 21. He needs to play hockey games. You can't develop if he's sitting on the bench. That's just a fact."
Murray, the AHL Goaltender of the Year and Rookie of the Year, seems fine with that plan.
"I think either way could be good for me," Murray said. "I think playing in the AHL wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but also practicing with the best players in the world wouldn't be a bad thing either, so the way I look at it, either way I can take the positives out of it. Wherever I end up, I'm still going to have the same determinations and play the same way each and every day and let things take care of itself."
Murray did not allow a goal for one month, from Feb. 8 to March 8, a scoreless streak of 304:11. He was 1:11 away from a fifth consecutive shutout when he allowed a third-period goal to Springfield.
Murray broke the record of 268:17, set by Barry Brust of the Abbotsford Heat in 2012. The third-longest streak belongs to Hockey Hall of Fame member Johnny Bower, who went 249:51 without allowing a goal with the Cleveland Barons in 1957.
Murray, the 83rd pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, was 25-10-3 for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, his first as a pro. He led the league in goals-against average (1.51), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (12), more than any rookie in AHL history.
"It's easy to get excited when a prospect has the kind of season Matt did," Fitzgerald said. "But we did not see that coming. We knew he was a good goalie. We knew he'd have some growing pains. No one ever expected him to be goalie of the year in the American Hockey League as a 20-year-old. So we still have to manage those (expectations)."
Thomas Greiss played 20 games as Fleury's backup last season, but he signed with the New York Islanders on July 1. Jeff Zatkoff, who played 37 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, played 20 games for Pittsburgh in 2013-14.
Fleury has played at least 62 games in each of the past six full seasons.
"I'm really going into it with an open mind and not trying to expect anything," Murray said. "Just [want to] compete and play my heart out every time I'm out on the ice."