Penguins' Fleury out of Canada's Olympic plans
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will be two of the most visible athletes when the Winter Olympics begin February in Sochi, Russia.
Their goaltender can't say the same.
Marc-Andre Fleury, once considered among the favorites to play between the pipes as Canada attempts to win a second straight gold medal, wasn't even one of the five goaltenders invited to Team Canada's orientation camp.
Instead, Canada invited Phoenix's Mike Smith, Montreal's Carey Price, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Washington's Braden Holtby and Chicago's Corey Crawford. Among that group, only Luongo has played in the Olympics, and his stock has dropped continually since backstopping Canada's gold medal in 2010. Fleury was the third goaltender on Canada's 2010 gold-medal team and as recently as last spring was considered a lock to make the Canadian squad, if not be its starter.
However, another postseason meltdown apparently has soured Canada on the 28-year-old Fleury.
After leading the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances — and winning the championship in 2009 — Fleury has produced save percentages under .900 in each of his subsequent four postseason appearances.
He hit rock bottom in Game 4 of the first round of the 2013 playoffs against the New York Islanders, allowing six goals in the 6-4 loss, which compelled coach Dan Bylsma to go to Tomas Vokoun.
Fleury played once more that spring, allowing a goal on the first shot he faced in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final against Boston.
Crosby, meanwhile, is delighted to have another opportunity at Olympic glory. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the 2010 gold-medal game to give Canada its second gold medal in the past three Olympics.
“It's obviously a very exciting thing to be a part of,” Crosby said. “I'm really looking forward to it. It's something Canada takes very seriously.”
Crosby doesn't figure to be alone in Russia, and he definitely won't be alone when Team Canada meets for its orientation camp. Three other Penguins were invited: forwards James Neal and Chris Kunitz and defenseman Kris Letang.
Neal is a former 40-goal scorer, Letang is a virtual lock after being nominated for the Norris Trophy this season, and Kunitz is Crosby's preferred left wing, which could compel Canada coach Mike Babcock to seriously consider him.
Team USA's orientation camp also will feature a number of Penguins.
Defensemen Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik are considered strong candidates to make the team and, given that they play together and that chemistry is difficult to generate in such a short tournament, could be paired.
Forward Beau Bennett, who just completed his rookie season, also was invited to the orientation camp.
Malkin will attend Russia's orientation camp, and Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen has been invited to Finland's camp.