When the relatively short goalie in the Penguins gear and CCM pads stepped on the ice for morning skate Saturday at Air Canada Centre, the conclusion drawn by most of the people in the stands was that call-up Tristan Jarry had arrived in time to practice.
Without seeing the goalie’s face (or remembering Jarry’s preferred equipment brand), the conclusion represented an assumption.
You know that saying about what happens you assume? It resonated not long after the morning skate ended.
It turned out the Penguins’ backup at the skate was not Jarry, who made 21 saves in a shutout win for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley on Friday night. Goalie coach Mike Bales actually served as the other netminder out there on the ice with Marc-Andre Fleury, the official starter for the night’s game against Toronto.
Jarry and forward Kevin Porter are presumably in transit to Toronto, and both seem likely to land in the lineup, as Mike Sullivan will rest several of the Penguins’ regulars. Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta, both still recovering from injuries, are the only guys officially ruled out — the rest are “game-time decisions.” But a variety of indicators point to Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Bonino, Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel as candidates to sit.
<idle whistling> pic.twitter.com/AK15mshB9u
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 8, 2017
Against a desperate and offensively gifted group of Maple Leafs, a piecemeal Penguins lineup might put Fleury in a tough but also potentially fun spot. There’s no pressure to win, and it’s hard to imagine the coaching staff will penalize Fleury too much if he allows a few goals (as long as they aren’t clearly on him). Toronto almost surely will pepper the Penguins with shots, though, so if Fleury wants a chance to embrace use his flexible, flashy style to earn a few highlights, he’ll possibly get one tonight.
In fact, anything less than a track meet between the teams will almost certainly prove disappointing. On Nov. 12, a 4-1 win for the Penguins, the squads combined for 85 shots on goal. On Dec. 17, a 2-1 overtime win for Toronto, 83 shots on goal occurred.
Bottom line: Expect an eventful night, no matter who mans the Penguins’ net — Fleury, Jarry or Bales.
PENGUINS’ PROBABLE LINEUP
= Evgeni Malkin (upper body) and Olli Maatta (hand) participated in the morning skate, but neither will play Saturday against Toronto. Maatta took line rushes with Brian Dumoulin, so that might be something the coaching staff is pondering for the playoffs. Malkin did not get line rushes, but he got a few reps on the top power play unit.
= Carl Hagelin (lower body) skated for a second straight day, but he remained in a no-contact jersey.
= Kris Letang (herniated disc) still is a good-looking dude.
Malkin one of the first non-young Penguins out on the ice for morning skate. pic.twitter.com/qW5IVRIQXh
— Bill West (@BWest_Trib) April 8, 2017