Knights’ Fleury excited to face old friends in Penguins
LAS VEGAS — Marc-Andre Fleury’s recent two-month stay on injured reserve because of a concussion ended just in time for the veteran goaltender, who played his first 13 years in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Since before the season began when he was taken in the expansion draft in June, the new Vegas goaltender circled the date Dec. 14 on his calendar — when Pittsburgh would play the Golden Knights for the first time in Las Vegas.
Fleury was activated before Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes at T-Mobile Arena.
In Vegas’ first contest of a five-game homestand, Fleury had 35 saves and showed flashes of what made him an important part of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship team the last two years.
“I had to get better,” said Fleury, who missed 25 games while recuperating from his third concussion in his career. “I had to get back in shape. I had to get back skating.
“It was good to play (Tuesday). It would have been nice to come out with a win. Pittsburgh will be a great challenge. They’re the Cup winners and a great measuring stick for our team.”
The reunion with the Penguins (16-13-3) on Thursday carries with it some anxious moments for Fleury. They know his tendencies and he knows theirs.
Also, the Golden Knights (19-9-2) are not playing like a typical expansion team. They had a four-game winning streak snapped against the Hurricanes.
Thursday’s game has added meaning with the Penguins being the defending champions and Fleury’s new team being only three points behind Pacific Division leader Los Angeles (20-9-3).
“They know what I like to do,” said Fleury of the Penguins, who come to Las Vegas after losing consecutive games. “Hopefully there’s not too much thinking out there, and I can just play my usual game and try to do well against them.”
“I still have a lot of friends on the team. That would be nice to see them, try to do good; they’re a good team. The Cup champs, it’s a good challenge for our team. I’d like to do my part to beat them.”
Fleury’s former fellow netminder with Pittsburgh, Matt Murray, was also activated from injured reserve Tuesday.
Murray, 23, has been sidelined the past five games with a lower-body injury sustained in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 27.
The Penguins have lost three of their last four games after putting together a four-game winning streak. They went 2-3 in their recent five-game homestand.
“We certainly need to evaluate what’s going on and why we’re losing games, especially here at home where we’ve been so good,” Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole said after the Penguins’ 2-1 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.
“We need to figure this out, and we need to figure it out in a hurry. We were preaching patience early on, but now it’s getting to the point when if we didn’t feel that urgency to figure it out then, we certainly should now.”