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With new glove in hand, Fleury returning for Pens

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- If the glove fits ... well, then Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will wear it at Madison Square Garden.

Fleury, who sat out the previous four games with a broken left ring finger, will play Monday night against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) wearing a new, bright white catching glove fitted exclusively for him by Reebok so the splint that covers his finger fits comfortably.

Fleury started breaking in his new glove last Thursday when he took the morning skate prior to the Penguins' game against Washington at Mellon Arena. He said he could have played in Sunday's game at Philadelphia, but the plan all along was for him to sit that one out as the backup to Brent Johnson and make his return at the Garden on Monday.

"I've been looking forward to playing again," Fleury said following Monday's morning skate. "Obviously it sucks to be watching, so it will be fun to play."

The Penguins are glad to have him back, too.

Johnson stopped 27 of 28 shots in Sunday's 2-1 win over the Flyers and went 2-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average over the last three games, but having Fleury in the net gives the team added comfort. He is, after all, Pittsburgh's No. 1 goalie and will soon be an Olympian for Team Canada.

Fleury sports a 3-6-3 record and 3.36 GAA for his career at Madison Square Garden, but he's 11-2-2 with a 2.04 GAA in his last 15 games against the Rangers. He's 25-14-1 with a 2.60 GAA this season.

"We're just happy to see (Fleury) back, that's the main thing," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "Johnnie has done a really good job for us ... but it's nice to see Flower back."

Fleury said his new catching glove also gives him more padding on the outside. If he had that in the first place, he probably wouldn't have broken his finger. His injury occurred in Edmonton on Jan. 14, when Ryan Stone's slap shot hit from the circle him on the outside of the glove in the perfect spot to break his finger. At first he didn't think it was broken, but his finger bled and the pain never subsided.

"It was just a slapper right in the right spot," Fleury said. "When it happened it was just a stinger, so I took my hand out and I was like, 'Oh man.' Then it started bleeding, so I got a band-aid. Usually it goes away, but this time the whole game it was really sore and it was kind of tough. The next day it was pretty good. Now it's fine. The swelling is down."

Not surprisingly, when the soreness wouldn't go away Fleury was worried both about his season with the Penguins and his status for Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics. He doesn't want to lose his grip on that.

"When it happened I thought about it because I wanted to know how long it would take to come back for sure, but they told me it wouldn't be long," Fleury said, sounding relieved. "I still have a grip in there, so I figure a month from here I should be fine."

Even though Fleury said he could only feel one stinger during the morning skate, he would not rule out taking some sort of shot or medication to numb the pain prior to Monday night's game.

"I'll talk to the trainers," he said. "Anything legal I think will be a good help."

To break in the glove, Fleury said he has been heating it every day in the hydrocollator in the trainers' room. He will do that again Monday night, but the glove is in pretty good shape now.

Fleury said he'll change catching gloves four or five times during the season "because they get beat up pretty good and they get really thin in the fingers and the palm."

"I like to feel the skin in the glove, but it's not bad," he added. "This thing, it helps a lot."

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