Pens goalie Matt Murray made a surprise return (of sorts) for Pittsburgh's Game 7 victory in Washington on Wednesday night.
Murray, 22, has missed the entire 2017 postseason with a lower-body injury, but returned for the Game 7 morning skate and served as the team's backup during the Pens' 2-0 win at Verizon Center.
"I get nervous when I watch. Probably way more nervous watching than I am playing because I feel helpless," Murray admitted. "It's not hard to watch when the team's winning.
"The team is playing so well. It's a real honor to watch this team play. I've had quite a bit of fun watching the team play and being a fan for a little while."
Murray, who led the Pens to a Stanley Cup championship last season while rewriting the NHL record books for a rookie goaltender, was the team's projected No. 1 goalie entering this postseason.
However, during warmups prior to Game 1 of Pittsburgh's First Round matchup against Columbus Murray felt something "pop."
"I don't know if something happened prior to it. It went unnoticed because I wasn't doing anything crazy or overstretching," Murray said. "It was a simple play and I felt something pop. It wasn't a good feeling. We've progressed really well here and I feel really, really good."
Murray has spent the past four weeks rehabbing and then two weeks of skating on his own before rejoining the team.
"It was a little frustrating, a slow process with the healing," Murray said. "I'm just trying to take things one day at a time. You have good days and you have bad days. I'm pretty far ahead of schedule from what they were projecting. I feel really, really good."
Murray participated in his first full team practice on Friday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and was delighted to be back with his teammates.
"I'm a pretty competitive guy so after four weeks without that competition it definitely feels good to get back out there and have some fun with my teammates, compete in front of the net," he said. "Just having fun again was a really good feeling."
Now Murray finds himself in the role that current starter Marc-Andre Fleury was in during last season: support. And Murray will do anything in his power to return the favor to Fleury and provide any support that he can.
"Knowing when to give a guy a pat on the back. Knowing when to stay out of his way. Mental support," Murray said. "Everything 'Flower' did for me last year. At the end of the day it's about winning. Right now Flower is doing that."