The Pittsburgh Penguins need a hand. Actually, a couple of hands would be nice. The injury bug has bitten two of their top players, and in both cases, right in the hand. Their recently minted goalie, Matt Murray, broke the thumb on his right hand playing for Team North America in the recently concluded World Cup of Hockey. Phil Kessel had surgery to repair a bone chip in his hand this past July.
Penguins’ General Manager Jim Rutherford said Murray would likely be out from three-to-six weeks. In a weird way, this is the opportunity that “the other goalie” Marc-André Fleury has sought. Not that he was hoping for Murray to be injured, but he definitely was hoping to once again grab hold of his previous position as starting goalie for the Pens.
A few days ago, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about the impact of Murray’s injury:
First and foremost, Marc-Andre Fleury is once again the unquestioned starter until Murray returns. The plan had been for Murray and Fleury to split starts, but the injury to Murray’s right, blocker-side thumb will scrap those, at least temporarily. – Jason Mackey
Mackey also noted that Rutherford looks like quite the genius in not having given in to the temptation to trade Fleury in the offseason.
Murray out for six weeks with a broken hand, Marc Andre where you at? ?
— Phillp Kessel (@GoBardownski) September 24, 2016
What will be intriguing, is to watch how Fleury plays during this time. If he repeatedly stands on his head, will coach Mike Sullivan feel pressure to run with him? Or, will he immediately go to the splitting of starts as was planned when Murray returns? If he does, how will Fleury respond? While Murray is confident that he will return and be 100 percent, Penguins fans will have to see if that is the case upon his return.
Hand Surgery Good to Go
Kessel says he is good to go after having had the hand surgery. NHL.com reports that the Post-Dispatch quotes Kessel as saying,
I’ll be skating at [training] camp and progressing as it goes and I’ll be ready to start the first game.
– Phil Kessel
This is good news for Pens fans, who saw Kessel join the team last season and help lead it to win the Stanley Cup. And apparently, he is not just talking a good game, but those who have seen him practice concur:
Phil Kessel looks perfectly fine. Sure, there's some pain, but wrist/hand doesn't look like it's an issue, that's for sure.
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) September 23, 2016
Rutherford took some heat when he traded for Kessel in July 2015. However, once again, he looked brilliant as Kessel was on fire throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Fleury ready to start while Murray’s hand mends, and with Kessel saying and looking like he will be ready for the season, Rutherford may go down as one of the great GM’s ever in the NHL.