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Penguins notebook: Fleury continues career-best pace

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

NEWARK, N.J. — The Penguins will play a lot the rest of November.

So will their top goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.

He started against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at Prudential Center. That marked his first starts in games played on consecutive nights since March 17-18, 2012.

Fleury has started 17 of the Penguins' opening 20 games, an 85 percent rate that would amount to about 70 starts in the 82-game regular season.

“Part of the rationale at this point in time is the workload during the games,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “It's not been real taxing.”

Fleury had faced 25 or fewer shots in six of nine starts dating to Oct. 21, including four of six contests.

His career high for appearances is 67 in the 2011-12 season.

He produced a career-worst save percentage (.834) and goals-against average (4.63) in the 2012 playoffs, and the Penguins believed his performance was hurt by emotional and physical fatigue.

They traded for veteran Tomas Vokoun that offseason so Fleury would not have to carry such a heavy workload during the regular season.

However, Vokoun is out until at least December, and possibly the season, because of surgery to dissolve a blood clot.

With Vokoun out, AHL veteran Jeff Zatkoff is serving as the Penguins' No. 2 goalie. He has made three starts, the last coming Nov. 2.

The Penguins are in a stretch of 11 games in 16 days. Their next back-to-back situation is Nov. 22-23.

Bylsma said Fleury is the preferred goalie for home games. He has started all but one this season. The Penguins have only three more games at Consol Energy Center during this busy run.

Sill debuts

Center Zach Sill, recalled from the AHL on Friday, played in his first NHL game against the Devils. He replaced Joe Vitale in the Penguins' lineup.

Bylsma said Sill's promotion was not necessitated because of an injury to a Penguins forward.

“There was a point early on in the season when we called up three or four guys,” Bylsma said. “Zach was playing real well (at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) at the particular time, (but) we were working for more of a third-line type of guy, or a guy who could even play higher in the lineup.

“This is an opportunity to get Zach up here. We have a roster spot.”

Sill, a fan favorite with the AHL Penguins, had scored a goal and produced four points in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Around the boards

Vitale, forward Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo were healthy scratches. … The Penguins are scheduled to be off Sunday. Their opponent Monday night, the Anaheim Ducks, will practice in Pittsburgh. The Ducks' visit will mark Teemu Selanne's last game in Pittsburgh barring a Stanley Cup Final between Anaheim and the Penguins.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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