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Penguins' Johnson stands behind Fleury

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Monday, Oct. 18, 2010
 

PHILADLEPHIA -- The puck must look like a beach ball to Penguins goalie Brent Johnson.

That was goaltending coach Gilles Meloche's guess after Johnson stopped 29 shots Saturday night in the Penguins' 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

Whatever the puck resembles, Johnson has stopped it often enough -- 81 times in three starts, all wins -- to have gained the confidence of coach Dan Bylsma. Johnson has started the past two games, and Bylsma's public comments about No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury have intentionally been more pointed than at any time during his 20 months as coach.

Johnson was pretty pointed after his latest win, too.

"This is Flower's team," he said of Fleury. "Everybody in this room knows that being the guy here will be his responsibility. I'm happy I'm giving us a chance to win, but Flower is our guy."

Fleury, who could not be reached for comment, is 0-3-0 with a .853 save percentage.

He made only 10 saves in his last start, Wednesday at home against Toronto. He has faced fire from fans since allowing a bad-looking third goal late in a 3-2 home loss to Montreal on Oct. 9.

The Penguins did not practice Sunday, but the day before Bylsma seemingly challenged Fleury to win back the regular starts befitting a franchise goaltender.

"He needs to be at his best, sharp and focused," Bylsma said. "He worked really hard in the preseason and really hard in the summer, and he had a great camp -- playing aggressive, confident and big in net. That's where he's got to be when he gets in there for us again. We count on him to be that guy for us."

Fleury remains "the guy," though -- at least in the eyes of the man who signed him to a seven-year contract worth $35 million in July 2008.

"The main thing is, from our coaching staff to his teammates, we all believe in Marc-Andre Fleury," general manager Ray Shero said. "It's not like he's been terrible. He'll get back in there. He'll play well when he does.

"He is the least of my worries."

Additional Information:

Tonight's game

vs. SENATORS

7 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center

(FSN, WXDX-FM 105.9, Penguins Radio Network)

Season series: First of four games. The Penguins went 2-2 against Ottawa last season and won a first-round playoff series in six games.

Who to watch: Right wing Daniel Alfredsson has 18 goals and 53 points in 55 regular-season games against the Penguins.

Trends n'at: Four of Ottawa's first five games were decided by a goal, and the Senators won just one of those contests. ... Right wing Alex Kovalev has one goal and one assist in his past 22 regular-season games. ... The Senators are 1 for 20 on the power play.

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