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Jarry prepared for opportunity

He and DeSmith will be the Penguins' goalie tandem with Murray out

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Head coach Mike Sullivan said after practice on Tuesday that Matt Murray, who left late in the second period of Monday's 5-4 overtime win against Philadelphia, is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

That means the net will be Tristan Jarry's for the foreseeable future, and the Penguins know that he's more than capable of handling it. There's a reason the Penguins traded up to take this kid in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft, and it's because he's a talented young goalie that they have a lot of faith in.

"We have a lot of confidence in him," Rust said. "The games he has played, he's played really well. He's a guy that everyone in this locker room can trust to make saves and I think we're happy with that."

The Penguins have taken their time with the 22-year-old's development, having Jarry play the last two seasons in the American Hockey League, and that patience is paying off right now in the National Hockey League.

"I think it's great, the opportunities that I had in the American Hockey League," Jarry said. "It showed over and over again what I could do for myself and then what I'm able to do up here, so I think that's one of the biggest things for me, was being able to develop and being able to have my time down there."

Down in Wilkes-Barre, Jarry said he had the mindset of going into practice and being better and better every day. That hasn't changed up in Pittsburgh as he continues to improve with every appearance. He's been vocal about saying that there's things he can take away from each game to challenge himself with.

"I'm just trying to do my best out there," he said. "Every day I want to get better and better, and I think that's something I'm trying to improve this year and trying to do every day."

It helps that he's spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh, as Jarry was a member of the Black Aces practice squad during the Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cup championship runs and dressed as the backup goalie in the opening rounds of both seasons with injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury and Murray.

And while Jarry again began this year down in WBS, he was called up on Oct. 30 and made his season debut on Nov. 2 in Calgary. He earned a second start on Nov. 11 in Nashville, and impressed with how confident and aggressive he was between the pipes against a tough opponent in a tough building.

But really, Jarry's breakout game was Nov. 25 against Tampa Bay. He was terrific going up against the NHL's No. 1 team with the No. 1 power play, making clutch saves - including stopping Steven Stamkos on a breakaway and robbing Nikita Kucherov of a wide-open net - en route to earning his first NHL win in his home debut.

"We believe he is a solid goalie," Sullivan said. "I think the game he played against Tampa is a perfect example of what he's capable of. Tristan is going to have to make timely saves for us game in and game out. We believe he can do that."

Jarry was solid in relief on Monday against the Flyers as well, and afterward, his teammates praised him for his performance, with Bryan Rust calling him a "rock." That's no surprise to Casey DeSmith, who knows Jarry better than most.

"He's calm, cool and collected," DeSmith said with a smile. "Just casual 'Jarrs.' I wish I had some of that. I'm sure he's had some nerves but he doesn't show it. He really makes it look easy and makes it look a little bit Carey Price-esque in the way he kind of is just easy-going about everything."

DeSmith joined Jarry at practice on Tuesday after learning during a player appearance at Mountain Top restaurant in Wilkes-Barre on Monday that he'd probably be heading to Pittsburgh.

"I was signing autographs and taking photos, the game was on in the background and I saw (Murray's injury) happen and I was like, 'I might be going,'" DeSmith said.

He ended up driving to Pittsburgh at 5:30 a.m. this morning in time for practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, where DeSmith admitted, with a smile, that he was "dragging," but still excited - and a lot more comfortable. Making his NHL debut on Oct. 29 against Winnipeg in relief of Murray made a big difference in that regard.

"I think the nerves, just that little bit of ice time, the shock's not quite as big coming up the second time," he said. "If I get in a game again, the nerves won't be quite as tough on me."

DeSmith is feeling good about his game, as he's posted sparkling numbers down in WBS. The 26-year-old has a 9-2-1 record, a 2.29 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in 12 appearances.  

"I'm really happy with it," he said. "We've actually been in so many close games down there, so that's been a good experience, and being the guy down there, that's obviously a new experience.

"Being down there in overtime games, shootout games, stuff like that, I think most of the games I've played have been within two goals. That's been a really good experience for me as well."

What also helps is that DeSmith is reunited with Jarry, who has been his goalie partner in WBS for the last two seasons. Last year, the two of them teamed up to win the Harry "Hap" Holmes Award after allowing the fewest goals against in the AHL.

"It's actually pretty wild after being down together all of last year, being goalie partners and sharing the net down there," DeSmith said. "Being up here now both of us at the same time is weird, just one year later. It happened pretty quick and I'm happy to be here with someone I'm so familiar with."

'Opportunity' was the word Sidney Crosby used when describing the current goalie situation for his team.

"I think it's an opportunity," Crosby said. "It's an opportunity for us to rally around and find ways to win, and I think it's a great opportunity for the two goalies. They're going to get an opportunity to prove themselves and they've shown they're capable of it.

"Jarrs has played great for us and 'Smitty' has been good too. When he came in it was a tough situation going into Winnipeg and being thrown into that, but he played well. It's something I think can bring you together and hopefully it can push us to be better."

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