BUFFALO, N.Y. — Matt Murray’s streak of consecutive starts in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins won’t hit double digits.
After turning to Murray to start the team’s previous nine games, coach Mike Sullivan will use backup Casey DeSmith in goal for Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Murray was outstanding during the run of consecutive starts, going 6-1-2 with a .930 save percentage.
Sullivan said the primary motivation for starting DeSmith on Thursday is to give Murray a break.
“Matt’s had a pretty heavy workload and we’re trying to watch that,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to keep him at his best. We’re trying to keep everybody at their best because that’s what we’re going to need to win each and every game. Casey’s been good for us.”
DeSmith hasn’t played since stopping 29 shots in a 4-0 loss to San Jose on Feb. 21. His numbers were better before Murray returned from a lower-body injury Dec. 15 (10-5-4, .923) than they have been since (4-6-1, .899).
Resting Murray against Buffalo, a team that ranks 23rd in the NHL in offense and will be without leading scorer Jack Eichel due to suspension Thursday night, opens the door for Murray to start both games of a weekend homestand with St. Louis on Saturday afternoon and Philadelphia on Sunday night.
“For a lot of reasons, Matt’s overall workload in the big picture isn’t that high, but in the short term, his workload has been a lot lately,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to find little pockets or windows where we can give him an opportunity to recover so that he can be at his best.”