Ty Conklin is back in the NHL – and he hopes to make the most of his stay.
The goaltender was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when Penguins starting netminder Marc-Andre Fleury injured his ankle early in the team’s win at Calgary on Dec. 6.
And, with Fleury possibly out of the lineup for an extended period, Conklin will serve as Dany Sabourin’s backup and get some chances to show his skills.
“You only get so many opportunities, but it is nice to be here,” Conklin said. “So far, actually, it’s been a pretty enjoyable year. We’ve been doing alright down in Wilkes-Barre, but it’s definitely nice to be back in the NHL.”
While the Baby Penguins have struggled this year, Conklin had been a steady for them between the pipes. Credited by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Richards as keeping the team in games, Conklin posted a 2.21 goals-against average, which ranked third in the AHL, and had an 11-7-0 record.
“It’s always nice to have a good starts. I think that is what has plagued me the last couple years is slow starts,” he said. “I’ve played well in the middles and the ends, but the slow starts have hurt me. That was kind of a focus of mine – to get off to a decent start this year and help the team the best I can.”
Even though Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was not at its customary spot near the top of the AHL standings, Conklin was enjoying his first stint with the team after the Penguins signed him as a free agent in July.
“I was having a real good time. It’s a real good group of guys with an outstanding coaching staff and support staff,” he said. “They treat you really well there. I enjoyed it and my wife enjoyed it.”
Conklin, who was born in Alaska, fills an important role for the Penguins. Not only is he a goaltender who could compete at the NHL level – he appeared in 76 games with the Oilers, Blue Jackets and Sabres – but he served as a mentor to young Penguins prospects John Curry and David Brown. Both of those goaltenders are in their first professional seasons.
“I hope they were able to learn from me. I really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” Conklin said. “I tried to help them out as best I could if they had any questions. They are both pretty intelligent kids and they both pick things up pretty quickly.”
Like Conklin, who attended the University of New Hampshire, Curry (Boston University) and Brown (Notre Dame) were finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which honors the top collegiate hockey player.
“I think they are both very talented kids. They are like most every college goalie. You don’t realize how good the American Hockey League is – I certainly was that way,” Conklin said. “I didn’t realize how good the league was until I played in it a little bit. They have a lot of promise and I think the goaltending down there is in good hands with those two guys.”
Conklin’s Pittsburgh debut didn’t go quite as he planned. Inserted into goal to start the third period with a 5-2 deficit in Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Flyers scored three more goals to finish with an 8-2 triumph.
“Those are never the situations you want to get your first taste of action for a team in, but that’s just the way it goes. That’s hockey and that’s not the first time it’s happened that way,” he said. “It’s one game. The team stuck together real well and that’s what you wanted to see.”
Meanwhile, Conklin enjoys working with Sabourin and Fleury in Pittsburgh.
“They are easy guys to get to know and get along with. I am sure there are not too many people around who have anything bad to say about them,” he said. “I try to let them do their thing and stay out of their way and help them as best I can.”