He’s baaaaack ???? pic.twitter.com/kEO7fh6n0H
— NHL (@NHL) February 6, 2018
Let’s Go Pens! ???? pic.twitter.com/9qTm6twcxL
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 6, 2018
6:09 pm: Per Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Shelly Anderson, it is a light night at the scouts table.
Rick Kehoe with the Rangers (always present), is at PPG. A professional scout from the Anaheim Ducks, and a WBS Penguins fan favorite, Dennis Bonvie is in town.
Shelly Anderson will have the postgame recap and locker room comments. Matt Gajtka and Dan Kingerski will debut Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s live postgame show on Facebook Live. Make sure you like our Facebook page, here.
2:15 p.m.: Checking in with Golden Knights beat reporter Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there were no set lines or pairings at today’s optional morning skate for the visitors. Gallant confirmed Fleury is in net, so fear not!
However, Gallant confirmed that defenseman Jason Garrison remains a healthy scratch and hotshot rookie winger Alex Tuch will be on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s line. Wouldn’t call that a typical fourth line, as Carp intimated with Gallant.
When I asked Gallant if Belly’s line was now his third line with Tuch on it, he smiled and said: “We have two third lines.” #hockeydiplomacy
— Steve Carp (@stevecarprj) February 6, 2018
12:17 p.m.: And, in a final bit of housekeeping, Fleury has officially received the third championship ring he richly deserved with his spectacular play in the first two rounds of last year’s playoffs.
Jim Rutherford and team president David Morehouse were present for the presentation, along with Lemieux and Sullivan.
Earlier this morning, Marc-Andre Fleury received his 2017 Stanley Cup ring from Mario Lemieux. Congratulations Flower. Well deserved.???? pic.twitter.com/bAM4mQ7Cpi
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 6, 2018
11:55 a.m.: Barring an epic troll job by Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant, Fleury will be in net tonight. Here he is getting some light reps at Vegas’ morning skate, courtesy of the Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari.
Fleury, facing shots at the start of Vegas’ game-day skate. pic.twitter.com/pHxEY64xZV
— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) February 6, 2018
Per the folks at @PensInsideScoop, Fleury’s father André was in attendance for the skate.
11:40 a.m.: Phil Kessel sat out practice yesterday, but he skated this morning at the Penguins’ optional workout.
Sam Kasan of the Penguins’ website was privy to a playful interaction between Kessel and Fleury backstage at PPG Paints Arena.
Fleury and Kessel pass each other in the arena hallway.
Fleury: “No rockets top shelf tonight.”
Kessel: “I gotta get at least one.”
— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) February 6, 2018
Should be a fun night, eh.
11:15 a.m. via Dan: I remember, vividly, Marc-Andre Fleury’s first game as a Penguin. Eddie Olczyk was the coach. I was a producer on the Pittsburgh Penguins radio network. After a couple years of watching the 2001 Eastern Conference Final team dismantled, the Penguins were…not good. Things were about to get worse, too. But, for a moment–there was hope. That night, Fleury lit up the arena like he’s lit up every locker room. The place buzzed. It felt very much like Gerrit Cole‘s first start for the Pirates.
Hope, optimism. It was an event. The first overall pick. The first top pick since Mario Lemieux, actually.
I don’t remember when in the game it occurred, Fleury made a dozen sparkling saves that night, but he robbed the Kings Ziggy Palffy. Palffy was still a great player then, and after the momentary gasp from the crowd, the old Civic Arena erupted. You remember how that place shook? Those were great crowds.
It was a two-on-one, and Palffy snapped a one-timer into what everyone thought was a wide-open net. Except, it wasn’t. I spoke with Palffy afterward. “All of the sudden, there was a leg there,” Palffy laughed.
It was the first new leg the Penguins could stand on. For one night, everyone knew it, too. There wasn’t yet a salary cap, and the Penguins were not yet able to compete with the $100 million Red Wings. But, before he left, Craig Patrick planted one more flower in the garden.
7:00 a.m.: How will you react to tonight’s Flower sighting? The man who wore Vegas gold for so long in Pittsburgh returns to town tonight as a member of Vegas’ first major-league sports team.
Even if Marc-André Fleury wasn’t stealing the spotlight, this would be a fun night at the rink. The Golden Knights are tops in the Western Conference past the midway point of their first season. They’ve already locked up the NHL’s best-ever record by an expansion team, so they’ll be quite the challenge for the surging Penguins, who are 10-3 since the start of January.
But, we know you’re thinking about Fleury first, so we have an assortment of content on the former franchise goalie. First, Shelly Anderson tees up the matchup with a look at whether letting Fleury go was the right move. Then, Dave Holcomb digs into Fleury’s Top-5 NHL moments, at 11 a.m.
Early this morning, Dan Kingerski and Matt Gajtka issued their first Press Box Nachos podcast, in which the fan reaction to Fleury was top of mind. They also analyzed the Eastern Conference with the trade deadline on the way, wondered about the Rangers’ apparent white flag and broke down Jake Guentzel‘s underwhelming season.
Check back here all day for any news from the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, plus any other relevant league-wide news that breaks. Shelly has our coverage of the game tonight, with Dan and Matt tackling a postgame Facebook Live video from the (temporary) Pittsburgh Hockey Now studio.