Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins netminder Matt Murray came into his first start as a pro Saturday just trying to make an impression.
The rookie goaltender admitted he wasn’t really thinking about trying to force his way into the team’s playoff plans.
But he did.
After Monday’s practice at the Toyota Sportsplex, head coach John Hynes said Peter Mannino will be the starter during the team’s opening round series against Binghamton. The injured Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers is out for the series, if not the rest of the postseason, leaving the Penguins with two rookies - Eric Hartzell and Murray, to backup Mannino.
With a full week of practice in store, Hynes will have plenty of time to pick a backup. But he stressed that this week’s practices aren’t necessarily an audition for the job.
“It’s not really a competition,” he said. “It’s more depending on what we feel is the best situation.”
Hynes was pleased with Murray’s performance in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss in Utica. In his first start as a pro, the 19-year-old stopped 23-of-25 shots.
“He played well. He looked composed in there,” Hynes said. “He’s a big, athletic goalie and we liked what we saw from him.”
The 6-5, 171-pound Murray was Pittsburgh’s third round pick in the 2012 draft and he wrapped up his third season of juniors before joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last week. He recorded 32 wins with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL, posting a 2.57 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
Murray said there were some differences he noticed right away with the pro game - faster pace, harder shots and bigger players, but he felt comfortable in net.
“I was just trying to make an impression, and that goes hand-in-hand with going into the future and what I might see in terms of playing time.”
And now that Murray is in the mix to be Mannino’s backup in the postseason, he’ll continue to work on that impression this week in practice.
“I’m pretty humbled by that,” Murray said when told he is in the running to be Mannino’s backup. “I know I’m one of the youngest guys here. Practices are my games right now. I want to show the coaching staff and my teammates what I can do, and hopefully they’ll have confidence in me if I were to play a game in the playoffs.”
- Chris Conner completed his two-game conditioning stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and was recalled by Pittsburgh on Monday.
- Deslauriers and Hartzell were named the winners of the AHL”s Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award, presented to the goaltenders with at least 25 games played on the team which allows the fewest regular season goals. Hynes said the Penguins’ defense and Mannino, who appeared in 18 games, should also get credit for the award. “You have to have goaltending to get that, but when you look at a team’s commitment to defense to have the goals and shots down, it’s a credit to the whole team,” Hynes said.
- Hynes said injured defenseman Philip Samuelsson won’t return for the Binghamton series.