Penguins Murray set to return against Kings
Murray, who helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, not played as well since, at least in part because of injuries. He is expected to start for Pittsburgh (14-11-6) after recovering from a lower-body injury.
Murray was put on injured reserve on Thanksgiving after putting up the worst numbers of his career to that point in the season: 4-5-1, an .877 goals-against average and a 4.08 goals-against average.
The time off to heal could help him with a reset.
“There’s always benefits,” Murray said of being out. “You’ve got to take the positives out of every situation and run with it. It’s not about dwelling on the fact that you’re not in the lineup or you’re not healthy but using your time to get better in any way that you can.”
Murray came off IR Wednesday, but the Penguins opted to have him back up Casey DeSmith that night in a 6-3 loss at Chicago and again Friday in a 5-3 win against Boston, when DeSmith made a career-high 48 saves.
“We’re trying to put Matt in the best possible position to be successful,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said of waiting until at least Saturday to start Murray. “He’s had one team practice and a morning skate (since getting full medical clearance).
“The reality is, we’re playing back-to-backs, so they’re both going to get games. … When you look at the schedule, both in the short-term playing back-to-back, but also in the bigger picture where we play six games in nine nights, both of these guys are going to get playing time.”
The Kings (11-20-2) were already in Pittsburgh Friday and got to relax while the Penguins played.
Not that their season has been very relaxing.
The Kings sit last in the NHL. They lost Thursday at Columbus 4-1 and are 0-2-1 going into final game of a road trip.
“We have to be a lot better if we want to win games in this league,” Kings center Jeff Carter said. “That’s the bottom line here. We need to have more from everybody, myself included.”
There is a lot of statistical evidence to show that Los Angeles has earned its spot on the cellar.
A glaring one is the 1-for-17 lull on the power play over the past eight games, along with giving up six opponent power-play goals in that span.
“It’s been a common theme this year,” Carter said. “We’ve lost the special teams battles way too much this year, and it’s a huge, huge part of where we’re at.”
Among the other defining numbers, the Kings are 1-13-1 when they trail after the first period, 0-16-0 when they trail entering the third period.
The Kings will be without defenseman Dion Phaneuf for the second straight game. He has returned to Los Angeles because of an upper-body injury.
“He will be (out of the lineup) a little bit of time,” interim coach Willie Desjardins said.
Pittsburgh could be without its top defenseman, Kris Letang, who left Friday’s game late in the third period with an apparent left leg injury after colliding with Boston’s Joakim Nordstrom. There was no postgame update on his status.