It stands to reason that Pittsburgh Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith will get a start in one of the next two nights with back-to-back games against Seattle and Detroit, both at home.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan did not disclose his plans for the starting goalies after Wednesday’s practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex – he likely will name Tristan Jarry or DeSmith before Thursday’s game — but he did confirm what has seemed likely: DeSmith is dealing with some confidence issues during an off-kilter season.
“Right now it’s his own mindset and his confidence in his ability to play,” Sullivan said. “These guys are all professional athletes. They’re proud guys. They’re also human. And when things don’t do right, players get affected.
“It’s our job as a coaching staff to help them through that process.”
DeSmith, 30, is 3-3-1 with a 3.58 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage. His most recent start, Friday against Columbus, he got pulled after one period after giving up two goals on 12 shots but not looking sharp.
Sullivan reiterated that he put DeSmith in a bad situation that night because the goalie was coming out of COVID-19 protocol and had not had enough time to practice.
DeSmith probably would not have started that game, and might even have lost his spot as the No. 2 goalie in the organization, if Louis Domingue had not been hurt that morning when he took a shot to the foot during the morning skate. Domingue is now out week to week.
Sullivan professed a willingness to work with DeSmith based on his previous seasons with the Penguins.
“Casey’s had a body of work for us, and we know he’s a capable guy,” Sullivan said. “It’s our challenge with Casey to help him capture his very best game. We know he’s capable.”
Whether the Penguins follow up on that or opt to trade for a different backup remains to be seen.
Here is DeSmith before practice Wednesday:
No News Is Good News?
All expected, healthy players were at practice, which was a shorter, up-tempo workout. In this case, no news is probably good news for a team that has had a lot of lineup turnover because of injuries and COVID-19 protocol.
The players who are out, besides Domingue, are winger Jason Zucker (muscle core surgery) and forward Drew O’Connor (upper body injury). All are out week to week.
There were no updates, other than Sullivan saying O’Connor – who was around the practice facility Wednesday in a yellow hoodie – is status quo.
Busy Penguins schedule
The Penguins, who have won six straight games and 17 of 19, not only play back-to-back games starting Thursday, but they also are playing three games in a little less than four days with an afternoon game Sunday against the Kings, and a fourth game in six days, against Washington, before the All-Star break.
They like it like that, apparently. Nice and busy.
“When you’re winning, you want to play as many games as you can,” winger Brock McGinn said. “You want to keep the streak going.
“Our mentality is we want to focus on these next four games before break and try and get as many points as we can to set ourselves up for success afterwards.”