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Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that defenseman Olli Maatta, last seen struggling to leave the ice after Brooks Orpik’s head shot, will not play in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Sullivan didn’t say if it’ll be Derrick Pouliot or Justin Schultz replacing him in the lineup, but the Penguins told the Tribune-Review they’re ready:
“We've been working hard, the guys that haven't been playing,” Schultz said after Sunday's practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. “Obviously, it's different being in a game situation, but you have to get ready. It's playoff time. If I have to go, I'll be ready.”
“We have a lot of depth,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “We have two guys who are practicing every day in Schultz and Pouliot. They're pretty good players. Whoever comes in, I'm pretty sure they'll accomplish a great job and help our team to succeed.”
The more intriguing news is that Marc-Andre Fleury took a large number of shots in Penguins practice, and Sullivan said his injured starter is "making significant progress” towards a return to the lineup.
Which brings us to an uncomfortable question: If Fleury can play again, should he play again?
Matt Murray is 4-2 in the playoffs, giving up nine goals on 148 shots. He has a .939 save percentage overall, and a 1.74 GAA. At even strength, Murray has a .950 save percentage. He’s been outstanding, and excelling well beyond the expectations for a rookie. He’s Cam Ward’n it.
But he’s not Fleury. He’s not the incumbent. And coaches hate depriving veteran players of their place in a lineup due to injury.
Count Rob Rossi as someone who thinks Fleury can wait:
He remains the goalie most likely to help the Penguins win the Cup. If healthy, he should be the goalie they go to if there is a Game 1 of a conference final. But with what Murray has shown so far, the Capitals' progress as the Cup favorite is his to stop.
But if Murray beats the Capitals after steadying the ship against the Rangers, hasn’t he earned Game 1 of the conference final?
Look, Fleury is 10 years older than Murray. He makes $5.750 million against the cap. Murray’s a blue-chip prospect and the future of the crease. Fleury has limited no-trade protection. There's every chance they could move him this summer. (Hello, Dallas Stars.)
Again, you hate for a veteran player to lose his gig due to injury. But unless Murray gives the Penguins a reason to take the crease away from him, isn’t he earned the chance to continue on as starter?
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