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Penguins goaltender Fleury taking all-business approach

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stops the Devils' Adam Henrique on a third-period penalty shot Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 at Consol Energy Center.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
 

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury skated onto Consol Energy Center ice Sunday for a practice attended by about 4,000 fans.

And he was all business.

Fleury has always been a fierce competitor, but a newfound seriousness has been evident during the past month.

“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. “I don't think we ever worried about him. And he does look really hungry.”

In the locker room, Fleury is a popular man. From captain Sidney Crosby on down, the Penguins publicly and privately profess their belief that Fleury was and remains an elite goaltender.

“We've never stopped believing in Flower,” Crosby said.

Still, questions abounded in a turbulent summer for Fleury, who was removed from the net following a Game 4 implosion in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Islanders. What followed were regular sessions with a sports psychologist.

Fleury remains understandably quiet about those sessions. He still smiles around teammates and remains unfailingly cooperative with the media. Some of the shenanigans that were once a hallmark — playfully interacting with fans during practices, for instance — have been toned down. He still has some fun on the ice, but not like in the old days.

So far, so good.

“Flower's been so great,” center Brandon Sutter said. “You can talk all you want about playing better defensively in front of him and stuff like that. And that's obviously important. But the fact is, in these first two games, he's been really, really good.”

Almost perfect, actually.

Fleury pitched a shutout in the season opener against New Jersey, using three spectacular saves in the final five minutes to punctuate the effort. He was just as good against Buffalo on Saturday, allowing only one goal on a highlight-reel effort by Sabres star Thomas Vanek. He'll go for another strong performance Tuesday against Carolina.

Fleury doesn't seem especially excited about his start.

“It's just two games,” he said. “Two good games, but only two games.”

He's even changed his pregame approach.Fleury has made a decision to no longer speak with the media on game days, an approach many goaltenders subscribe to.

It's not that he possesses any beefs with members of the media. Rather, Fleury appears interested in quietly rejoining the league's elite.

Through two games he has played with a purpose, avoiding the embarrassing own-goals that have become a trademark in recent years.

Fleury has two seasons remaining on his current contract, and knows this could be a crossroads campaign.

So far, he's playing like a man who intends on being in the Penguins' lineup for many years to come.

“I think he's a great goalie,” defenseman Olli Maatta said. “He's been very focused, very good.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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