Matt Murray will have to wait one more day to return to Penguins net
The Pittsburgh Penguins are taking a patient approach to getting No. 1 goalie Matt Murray back in the net.
Casey DeSmith will make his seventh straight start when the Penguins host the Boston Bruins on Friday night.
Murray, who hasn’t played since Nov. 17 in Ottawa but has been up to speed in practice since Tuesday, will then be the scheduled starter Saturday night at home against Los Angeles.
“The reality is we’re playing back to back, so they’re both going to get games,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When we looked at it as a coaching staff, it was more about, ‘How do we get the best out of both of them, so we give those guys the best opportunity to be successful and we also give our team the best chance to win?’
“When you look at the schedule, both in the short term playing back to back but also in the bigger picture, where we play six games in nine nights, both of these guys are going to get plenty of time.”
Although Sullivan didn’t say so, quality of opponent has to be factored into the decision-making process.
The Bruins are on a three-game winning streak. The Kings have lost three straight overall and five in a row on the road. A matchup with Los Angeles would theoretically give Murray a chance to slide back into the lineup more easily.
“We’re trying to put Matt in the best possible position to be successful,” Sullivan said.
DeSmith stopped 23-of-27 shots in a 6-3 loss at Chicago on Wednesday.
While the goalie will stay the same coming off a bad loss to the Blackhawks, the forward lines look to be changing.
At morning skate, Tanner Pearson was working with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the top line. Zach Aston-Reese joined Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on the second line.
Derick Brassard moved back into his third-line center role between Riley Sheahan and Bryan Rust. Garrett Wilson took Jean-Sebastien Dea’s place on the fourth line with Derek Grant and Matt Cullen.
Pearson has been on Malkin’s wing almost exclusively since joining the Penguins in a trade with the Kings last month.
“Playing with G is pretty nice too. Two really, really high-end skilled centermen,” Pearson said. “Playing with guys like that, you get open and they’ll find your stick somehow or someway or another. Just gotta be ready when it comes to you.”
Aston-Reese has spent most of his NHL time this season in the bottom six. He said he could bring some of that approach to the second line.
“When Geno and Phil play together, they tend to like to play in motion. They’re dynamic off the rush,” Sullivan said. “(Aston-Reese is) a guy that’s going to go to the net, maybe bang a rebound in. He’s also got a good, solid 200-foot game. He’s got good awareness away from the puck. He’s a good 200-foot player, so he’ll help them in that regard as well.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.