Pens' Thibault gets nod again from Therrien
TAMPA - From Jocelyn Thibault's view, there is no budding goaltender controversy with the Penguins.
Of course, his view is from atop the depth chart these days -- as coach Michel Therrien has announced that Thibault will start today against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For those keeping count, his start against Tampa will be Thibault's second in a row and third in four games.
"To me, it's not a controversy," Thibault said. "For a while, (Therrien) thought the team had a better chance to win with Marc-Andre. Now, I'm getting to play."
Thibault might continue to play as long as he performs the way he did Thursday, when he stopped 32 of 33 shots to preserve a Penguins' victory over the Florida Panthers.
In his season-plus tenure as Penguins coach, Therrien has consistently gone with the hot goaltender. Thibault, despite just 14 appearances to date, has proven pretty warm of late.
"(Thibault) deserves to play," Therrien said. "Our philosophy hasn't changed and won't change: If you deserve ice time, you get ice time. That's the same whether you're a forward, defenseman or a goalie. I have to respect that philosophy. Thibault played outstanding (against Florida), and he deserves to be in there again."
Thibault is 4-5-2 this season, with a 3.00 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. Perhaps more important, he has surrendered only three goals over his past two starts -- against the Panthers and the Washington Capitals.
"I'm happy that I'm having a chance to play. I just want to make the best of it," Thibault said. "There are just two goalies on this team, and we're going to need both of us, especially down the stretch."
For much of this season, Fleury was seemingly the only goaltender for the Penguins.
Prior to his benching against the Panthers, Fleury appeared in 49 of the club's 60 games. For the most part, he fulfilled the heavy expectations that came with his selection as the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft. This season, Fleury is 29-13-7 with a 2.92 GAA, a .904 save percentage and four shutouts.
However, if his play reached new heights over the season's first four months, it has been on a steady decline in February. Over the past five games, Fleury has posted a 4.44 GAA and a .847 save percentage.
Knowing those numbers, Fleury was not surprised that Therrien is going with Thibault tonight.
"He's playing really well, and maybe I'm not right now," Fleury said.
Asked if he still considered himself the Penguins' No. 1 goaltender, Fleury said, "I don't know."
"Jocelyn played great the last few games he has played. The way Michel goes, if you play good, you play. He's consistent with that, and I respect him for that. We'll see how it will go."