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Fleury has been on his game with Penguins

| Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury concedes it is about time he won 40 regular-season games again for the Penguins.

"It was so early when it happened that I thought, 'Oh, I can do this again soon, yeah,' " Fleury said of the 2006-07 campaign, his first as the clear go-to goalie, that ended with 40 victories.

"It's been a little while now, and we've had great teams. So that's the goal."

A year ago Sunday marked the low point of his professional hockey life. Pulled after allowing two goals on five shots in fewer than seven minutes during a start at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 2010, Fleury looked like a lost goalie — and the Penguins looked like a franchise contractually tied to an emotionally wrecked starter for the next four-plus seasons.

But in the past 65 regular-season games, Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals in 43 contests.

Three weeks removed from his 27th birthday and looking quite the bargain with an average salary-cap hit of $5 million, Fleury touched on a variety of topics in an interview with the Tribune-Review:

Q: Is there a connection between you playing so well in a Game 7 home loss this past postseason and the career-best start to this season?

A: The year before, after losing to Montreal (in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals), I was home for the summer and thinking about all those goals -- just, "what happened?" I just wasn't happy. Last summer, I felt after the loss to Tampa Bay, like, "You tried your best, gave it all you had, and it didn't go your way." When you think like that, you can put a hard loss behind you pretty quick, and (this) summer I did. Maybe that's the difference.

Q: Technically, what are you doing better?

A: Maybe there's a little less movement in my game. I'm a little more compact, not sliding everywhere. I'm in the blue (paint) more, and that gives me a chance for rebounds. Some nights, you're not feeling good and you're not into it, but if you're better technically you end up just getting hit by the puck instead of trying to reach for the big saves. That's pretty much it, really.

Q: It sounds like you now think of yourself more of a goalie than just a great athlete playing the position?

A: I was always taught to be technical, but when I was young and playing outside my house, it was more fun diving around, going for a big glove save, going for a two-pad-stack save. That carried over, maybe, early in my career. Over time, you play a lot of games, realize you need to save energy because it's a long season if you want to win the Stanley Cup, and maybe say, "Let's not try for a poke check and let them come at you." (Laughs) Does that mean I'm thinking more?

Q: What individual statistics do you think about?

A: Forty wins. It's not just a number. Not a lot of guys get it every year, and if you do, it that means your team is having a good season, getting points and making the playoffs. That's all that matters is getting a chance to play for the Cup, and if I get 40 wins, that means I've given us that chance.

Q: Not all goalies are leaders, but in an informal poll of teammates about the leadership structure on this team, your name is one of the first mentioned. How has that happened?

A: I'm not the biggest talker, but I've been around for a while and can talk about some things to the guys. Me and (defenseman) Brooks (Orpik) have been here longest. We've seen it all, seen a lot of guys come through. Sometimes, we talk about that with other guys, how it hasn't always been this good. Maybe we appreciate it more, take more ownership because we know how it was when we started. We're good every year now. People want to play in Pittsburgh. Brooks and I are, like, the old guys reminding everybody that it took a lot of hard work to make it like this.

Q: Go back to this past November. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the 2009 playoffs as the standard for excellence, what number do you assign to your play over the last calendar year?

A: I didn't win (the Cup), so it doesn't matter.

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