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Penguins

Penguins notebook: Busy schedule means night off for streaking Matt Murray

Jonathan Bombulie
| Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, 6:27 p.m.
Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry makes a glove save on the Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist in the third period Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry makes a glove save on the Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist in the third period Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riding a career-long regulation unbeaten streak, the only thing that can stop Matt Murray at this point is the schedule.

With the Penguins playing on back-to-back days, coach Mike Sullivan started rookie Tristan Jarry on Sunday night in Columbus.

It couldn't have been easy to give Murray the night off. In his last nine appearances, he's 8-0-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

Jarry hadn't played an NHL game since Jan. 17. In the meantime, he went 3-0-0 with a .941 save percentage on a brief trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“Given the logistics of the schedule and the demand of the schedule — this is our third game in four nights — that's a lot to ask from a goaltender, and we trust the tandem that we have,” Sullivan said. “Tristan's played extremely well for us. He gives us a real solid chance to win, and he'll make the timely save for us. We believe in him.”

Jarry, incidentally, has an outside shot at making the NHL's all-rookie team in a down year at the position.

Vegas' Malcolm Subban leads NHL rookie goalies with an 11-3-1 record and .911 save percentage. Coming into Sunday's game, Jarry was in the same ballpark with a 9-4-2 mark and a .919 save percentage.

Schultz out again

Defenseman Justin Schultz missed his second consecutive game with an illness. Matt Hunwick, who was scratched for the previous nine games, again filled in on the right side of the second pair with Olli Maatta.

Chad Ruhwedel and Teddy Blueger also were scratched.

In his first game back Saturday night against Toronto, Hunwick was on the ice for the first Maple Leafs goal. Later, he assisted on Maatta's winner.

“I thought as the game went on, he got better,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, when you miss a handful of games, the timing is probably the biggest adjustment getting back in the game. I thought as the game went on, he settled into his game pretty well.”

Line construction

While the Penguins seemingly have turned their season around dramatically in the last six weeks, their road record still could use some work. Since Jan. 1, they were 11-1-0 at PPG Paints Arena and 4-3-1 elsewhere coming into Sunday night's game.

In theory, their balanced offensive approach, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel each helming his own line at even strength, would make the team matchup-proof, even on the road.

Whether that has panned out in recent games, it's a concept Sullivan still prefers.

“It certainly makes it more difficult for our opponent to key in on any one line or player for that matter,” Sullivan said. “Someone will get an advantageous matchup.”

Sullivan also pointed out that the rationale behind his current line combinations isn't necessarily built around matchups. It's about making sure each line has enough defense to go with its offense.

“In our top nine right now, we feel like all three lines have people on their line that have a conscientious, two-way game,” Sullivan said. “We're making sure not only are we trying to score, we're trying to play the game the right way and make it hard for our opponents.”

Lean in

Before the game, Columbus coach John Tortorella talked about the dilemma teams face when playing against the Penguins.

“You always need to respect your opponent, but when you play against the Stanley Cup winner two years in a row, some of the people they have on their team, you don't want to show them too much respect because that's when you start ending up tilting back a little bit,” Tortorella said. “We've got to be leaning forward.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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