A year ago, Pittsburgh Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith wasn’t able to help when the team needed a boost. He gets a do-over now, at least in the short term, as coach Mike Sullivan announced Friday that No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry is being evaluated for a lower-body injury.
At the least, Jarry will miss Saturday’s game against the Bruins in Boston. Sullivan said Jarry was not traveling with the team there, so DeSmith is expected to start.
However, this puts the Penguins in a salary cap bind. With only $11,000 cap space, according to PuckPedia.com, the Penguins cannot afford to make an official recall. Third goalie Louis Domingue was recalled on an emergency basis later Friday afternoon. He is expected to back up DeSmith at Boston.
Sullivan added that defenseman Mike Matheson, who like Jarry missed Friday’s practice, was given a maintenance day.
Depending on the nature and the severity of Jarry’s injury, the Penguins’ schedule could be favorable. After Saturday, they are off until Thursday when the Bruins visit for a rematch.
It’s not clear when or how Tristan Jarry got hurt. He snapped a personal five-start losing streak Thursday when he made 36 saves in a 6-3 win over the New York Islanders that cinched a playoff spot for the Penguins.
Domingue is 10-9-2 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. He started one game this season for the Penguins, a 41-save win Jan. 15 against San Jose. Shortly afterward he got what is believed was a broken foot in a morning skate.
Last spring, Jarry struggled as the Penguins lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Islanders. In fact, there is a widespread belief that the team might have been able to advance if Jarry hadn’t struggled.
But there was little choice but to let Jarry sink or swim because DeSmith was hurt and Domingue was raw.
In 21 games this season, DeSmith is 8-4-5 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. Coming off his injury, he had a slow beginning this season, losing his first four starts (0-3-1) and nearly losing the backup job to Domingue.
“At the time it’s tough to deal with,” DeSmith said. “I hate losing, as does everyone. … But ancient history. I hadn’t thought about the first four games of the season in a while.”
His stock has risen since then.
“We have full confidence in Casey,” Sullivan said. “His game has really evolved over the course of the season. Since the turn of the calendar year he’s played really solid hockey for us.”
DeSmith said he followed a tried and true formula.
“Just trying to play my game, keeping things simple,” he said. “I’ve been doing good work on the ice, trying to clean up areas in my game that I thought could improve, and gaining confidence, too.”
Saturday’s game is the first between the Penguins and Bruins since the Feb. 8 game in which Boston’s Brad Marchand punched Jarry and then hit him in the head with his stick after Jarry reportedly taunted him by saying, “How about that f-ing save?”
Marchand drew a six-game suspension from the NHL.
Tristan Jarry, of course, won’t be on the ice, but the Penguins aren’t really expecting any follow-through.
“I actually forgot all about it,” Sullivan said. “For me, it’s a non-issue. I just think at this time of year both teams have a certain focus on playing the game a certain way.”
How about DeSmith, who will be playing in Jarry’s stead?
“Not really something I’m going to be thinking about or worrying about,” DeSmith said, then smiled. “I guess I have to watch what I have to say around (Boston’s No.) 63.
“But I’m not going to be thinking about that. Both teams just want to go out there and play some hockey.”