As Pittsburgh art legend Andy Warhol once wrote:
Two’s a crowd
Three’s a party
Right now there is a party in the Pens’ net with Marc-Andre Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff and Matt Murray on the team’s roster.
“It’s going to be our responsibility as a coaching staff – and we’ll rely a lot on Mike Bales, our goalie coach – to make sure that we manage the nets accordingly and to make sure they all get enough sufficient work so that they are prepared to play in games,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Late Saturday night the Pens recalled goaltender Matt Murray from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Murray, who was the AHL Goalie of the Year last season, ranks third in the AHL in both goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.931) on the current campaign.
The Pens recalled Murray for one reason.
“The reason he is here is that we believe he can help us win,” Sullivan said. “Matt’s going to get some games, because we believe that he can help us down the stretch.”
Murray, 21, is in his second stint in the NHL. He made four starts for Pittsburgh during December and posted a 2-1-1 record, 1.72 GAA and .938 save percentage, while allowing two or less goals in all four starts.
Murray is excited for the opportunity to show that he belongs in the NHL.
“I’m excited. This is where I want to be, in the NHL,” Murray said. “I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to competing here. I’m taking it day-by-day.
“I just know that I’m here to compete for playing time. Nothing will be handed to me. I know that for sure. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll use practice as a platform to show what I can do. I’ll take it day-by-day and play my heart out when I get the opportunity.”
Marc-Andre Fleury is obviously the team’s No. 1 netminder. That means Murray and Jeff Zatkoff, who has backed up Fleury all season long, will compete for playing time.
“I know what’s going on. Management and the staff has been open with me,” Zatkoff said. “I think all of us know the situation. I know what I bring to this team both on the ice and off the ice. That’s not going to change. I’m still going to work hard, compete and try to be the best teammate possible.”
It can make for a tough situation with two players fighting for playing time, but the Pens coaching staff has addressed the issue.
“We’ve spoken with (Zatkoff) and the goalies. We’ve spoken with our team about it,” Sullivan said. “It’s never an ideal situation with a three-goalie rotation. But certainly, we’ll do everything in our power to make it as cooperative as we can.”
Considering the character of the three guys involved, it should be a cooperative competition.
“I think we have three really good guys that help make the situation better between ‘Matty,’ ‘Flower’ and myself,” Zatkoff said. “We’re all professionals. Everyone wants to play in the NHL. We’re all here right now. That’s the way it is. We all have a job to do. We’ll work hard and try to make the best of it.”
Making the situation better is the close relationship between Zatkoff and Murray. Both split playing time in WBS during the 2014-15 season, and Murray even credited Zatkoff as the reason he was so successful (Murray won Goalie of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and set league records in shutouts and shutouts sequence).
“He was one of the biggest factors in my development last season,” Murray said. “He was like a big brother figure to me last year. It was my first year of pro hockey. I didn’t really know what to expect. Jeff helped me through that. We were very close. We have a brotherly relationship. We know each other very well and we’re very good friends. That’s good to have.”