The Pittsburgh Penguins will not have the services of goalie Marc Andre-Fleury, the top pick in the NHL draft, when they try to end their team-record eight-game home losing streak in a matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Pittsburgh announced Thursday that Fleury will return to his junior team in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The move came several days after the Penguins signaled they had no plans to send him back to juniors in the near future.
With Fleury coming off consecutive well-played games, and nearing the 25-game mark that would give him the chance to collect $3 million in bonuses, the Penguins decided to make the move.
“Certainly finances are in the back of our minds all the time,” Penguins general manager Craig Patrick said. “We can’t afford to lose a lot of money, but we just felt for a 19-year-old kid, it’s best for him to get back into his own element with his peers and try to win some championships which we think is important for development.”
With Pittsburgh, Fleury was 4-14-2 with a 3.64 goals-against average, an .896 save percentage in 21 games and 11 losses in his last 12 decisions. He was the NHL’s rookie of the month in October, when he was 2-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average.
“My dream always has been to be in the NHL and now I’m going back, but I’m very grateful to the Penguins. They gave me a chance to be part of the team for a while,” Fleury said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had lots of fun, though. I had a very good time.”
Jean-Sebastien Aubin was in net for the Penguins as they faced Tampa Bay on the road Thursday. He allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced as the Penguins lost 5-1, their eighth straight defeat.
Pittsburgh now returns home, where it has lost eight in a row since a 1-0 win over Chicago on Dec. 29.
Philadelphia comes into Saturday’s contest on a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) after skating to a 3-3 road tie Wednesday with the Florida Panthers.
The Flyers outshot the Panthers 47-25, but were frustrated by Florida goalie Roberto Luongo.
“We played a tremendous hockey game today,” Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We obviously think we deserved a lot better shake than the one we got, but we played a heck of a hockey game.”
The Flyers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games, and own a three-point lead over New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division.