Mike Johnston could’ve brushed off the question.
He could have talked around it.
Or even downright lied.
But he didn’t.
Johnston said today that he expects goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to play about 60 games, a lesser workload than he’s seen in the past.
Excluding the lockout, Fleury’s games played dating back to 2008-09 look like this: 64 games, 67, 65, 67 and 62.
“There’s no set number,” Johnston said … before proceeding to set a number. “We want to probably push the high 50s, low 60s, somewhere in there. Sixty, probably, I would think, for sure.”
Maybe it’s semantics, maybe not. Maybe the “60 range” — as Johnston later said — means 64, 67, 65, 67 or 62. But he started out saying high 50s, low 60s, which seems like Thomas Greiss might see a few more chances that Jeff Zatkoff did last season.
Greiss downplayed the question the other day of whether he was competing with Fleury for additional starts.
“We’ll see what happens,” Greiss said.
>>So, that roster thing was funky, no? Defenseman Scott Harrington to Wilkes-Barre, forward Oskar Sundqvist to Sweden, three guys to Wheeling.
Settle. It’s not that big of deal. The three guys in Wheeling are there because it’s easy to bring them back. It also makes the Penguins cap compliant. Kasperi Kapanen is in Finland, which would make an appearance for him on opening night nothing less than a modern miracle.
I was told by one source to not read too much into what the Penguins do over the next 48 hours. So don’t.
>>Patric Hornqvist practiced on a line with center Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin today. Think he was happy about it?
“Can’t ask for anything better than that,” Hornqvist said. “Probably the two best players in the world. See what happens on opening night, if Geno’s going to play or not and go from there.”
>>An underwritten has been forward Blake Comeau, the team’s preseason scoring leader. (Serious, look it up.)
Comeau was an offseason acquisition after he was underutilized in Columbus the past two seasons, scoring a total of seven goals while averaging around 12 minutes of ice time.
Don’t expect a huge jump in the ice time, but the line of Comeau, Marcel Goc and Nick Spaling does have the potential to do some impressive things. Remember, Comeau scored 24 goals with the Islanders in 2010-11, so putting the puck in the net is not a completely foreign concept to him.
Using those three together also frees up Steve Downie to potentially play in a top-six role if the Penguins need him to.
“I think the coaching staff and the people who brought me in here know that I’m a physical power forward,” Comeau said. “Since I left New York, my numbers have dropped off a little bit. But I’m excited to expanded my role and get back to contributing offensively like I know I can.”
>>Quote of the day went to defenseman Olli Maatta. Asked how the pairing with Paul Martin has gone, Maatta responded: “You can put anybody with Paul, and it’ll be good. He’s that good of a player.”
Drew a nice laugh. The young Finn is quickly becoming a very underrated quote.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,