While Marc-Andre Fleury participated in the team’s optional practice Monday morning at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the Pens goaltender confirmed that he is still experiencing concussion-related symptoms.
“Otherwise, I would be back (in game action),” Fleury said. “Just getting back out there, trying to get a sweat and to stop some pucks. We’ll see how it goes throughout the day.”
Fleury missed the last five games of the regular season and Pittsburgh’s entire opening-round series against the New York Rangers with the injury. While he returned to team practice on April 11 and skated with the guys for about a week, Fleury took a few days off the ice the following week while the team was in New York.
When asked about the reasoning behind letting Fleury go out and take shots or the different kinds of symptoms he can take the ice with, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan declined to speak about the specifics of his goaltender’s injury.
“We trust that our medical staff does the right thing as far as trying to do their best to rehab our guys regardless of what their injury is,” Sullivan said. “We go on the advice of our doctors and our medical staff. These guys are sharp guys; they know what they’re doing. We trust that our players’ interests are in good hands with these guys. Those guys are primarily responsible for the rehab process and that’s the way it goes.”
In the meantime, Fleury is trying to stay positive throughout the process.
“It’s one of the toughest things I’ve been through,” Fleury said. “It’s some good days (where) you think you’re back. And some bad days (where) you think it’s never going to get fixed.
“Lots of ups and downs. Being in the playoffs too, it’s such a fun time of year to play hockey and every game is so intense, so meaningful. So it’s tough to just be watching. But I just have to deal with it, fix it up and cheer on the guys.”
One of those guys is rookie netminder Matt Murray, who won the last three games of the Pens’ series against the Rangers. He credited Fleury, who has remained in the locker room and around his teammates, with being a strong veteran presence who has helped him stay loose and calm his nerves.
“He’s a young guy, but Matt I think is already very mature,” Fleury said. “He’s a guy that is doing so well right now. Throughout the season, last season and right now, he’s staying calm and sees the puck very well, so he’s been great for us.”
Fleury was in net when the Pens last faced the Caps during the postseason back in 2009, backstopping his team to a Game 7 victory against their rivals – a night where he stopped Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway that would have put Washington up 1-0. Instead, Sidney Crosby went on to open the scoring in an eventual 6-2 Pens’ victory.
Fleury’s certainly seen a lot of Ovechkin over the years, and is more than happy to be there for Murray with any questions he might have.
“I think I can tell him where Ovi likes to shoot. I’m not sure he knows that one,” Fleury joked before adding, “I’m sure we’ll get a little sit-down, talk a little bit about it, but I think he can’t worry too much about them. Just worry about the way he is playing and staying in his bubble. It’s been going great, so don’t worry too much about it. Just go out and play.”