Reports from the Pittsburgh Penguins morning skate indicate goaltender Casey DeSmith will again start for the Penguins, ahead of incumbent starter Matt Murray. DeSmith was the first goalie off the ice which is considered the sign of the starter. DeSmith filled in well for Murray last Thursday in a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights and again Saturday in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
In each game, the Penguins were outshot but DeSmith made 35 and 37 saves, respectively.
Last Thursday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan called DeSmith, “the best player on the ice”, and Saturday he called him “terrific.”
DeSmith, 27, won the backup job over Tristan Jarry in training camp and has continued his strong play from last season. He is 1-0-1 with a .935 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average. DeSmith had an identical 2.40 goals against average last season with a .921 save percentage in 16 appearances.
The remainder of the Penguins lineup is unclear as the morning skate was optional and several key players such as Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang did not skate. Pittsburgh Hockey Now spoke with Kris Letang yesterday who deflected praise for his play, “It’s hard to be happy about anything,” he said.
Murray and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel were reportedly the last players off the ice which is a sign neither will play. Rookie defenseman Juuso Riikola appears headed for his third straight start.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now also spoke with Derick Brassard yesterday about playing left wing. The talented center had a big reaction, “I loved it,” he declared.
UPDATE: Mike Sullivan confirmed DeSmith will start.
“When you look at his last couple of games, he’s really helped us get three out of four points. He’s got a .935 save percentage in two games. It’s pretty impressive,” Sullivan said just before he made sure to quell any goalie controversy. “It doesn’t take away from the fact that (Murray) is our number one goalie. (Murray) is also coming off an injury.”
Sullivan concluded, “(DeSmith’s performance in the last couple of games has been exceptional.”