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Thibault wraps up preseason with OT loss

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006

Penguins general manager Ray Shero didn't know what to expect from Jocelyn Thibault coming into training camp.

He only knew that Thibault was a 31-year-old goalkeeper who was once an All-Star, but because of injury and the lockout had played only 30 games in the last three years. In Thibault's 16 games last year, his first season with the Penguins, he had only one win and nine losses, most of which could be classified as disasters.

"I'm sure a lot of other people didn't know what to expect either, but right now I'm happy," Shero said. "What I'm looking for is two goaltenders who can support each other. We need people to win games and give the team confidence. Hopefully, they'll both be able to do that."

Thibault played his third and final preseason game Friday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. The other goaltender Shero was referring to, of course, was Marc-Andre Fleury, who'll get the start tonight in the preseason finale against the Sabres in Buffalo.

Fleury remains winless in two disappointing preseason performances with a 4.39 goals-against average and a save percentage of .827. He has the worst statistics of the three Penguins goalies including Dany Sabourin, who is 0-1-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage after a shootout loss in Hamilton, Ontario, in which he made 44 saves.

Although Fleury is on a one-way deal, he is still six games shy of reaching the point at which he'd have to clear waivers. The Penguins could send him down and keep Sabourin if they wanted to.

When asked if Thibault was No. 1 on the team's depth chart yesterday, coach Michel Therrien answered, "We'll let you know next week."

Fleury's struggles combined with Thibault's improved play could open a door for the Montreal native, but Thibault isn't rooting for Fleury to fail.

"Honestly, I don't really look at what other goalies are doing," Thibault said. "Marc-Andre is a great kid, and I thought he had a solid season last year for what the team was going through. But he's got to worry about his things, and I've got to worry about my things. If I end up playing more games because of that, or being a regular goalie, good for me. Great. I just want to be the best I can be."

Therrien has always approached his goaltender assignments based on performance. In other words, the goalie playing best is the goalie who's going to play. Thibault said that gave him extra motivation to work hard this summer to prepare for his comeback.

"That's what I like about him is if you deserve to play, you'll play, and that got me through the summer, working hard and skating hard," Thibault said. "I knew if I did my job, I'd play. I know he's going to play me if I deserve it."




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