It took just two days for Leland Irving’s chance to find a job in the Pittsburgh organization to improve.
When news broke on Tuesday that goaltender Matt Murray would be sidelined 3-6 weeks with a broken hand, it created a void in the organization impacting every netminder, including those in camp on tryouts.
Tristan Jarry spent time with Pittsburgh last season and during the playoffs, and while he didn’t get into a game he’s considered a front-runner to slot in as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup. But there’s something that sets Irving apart: NHL experience.
Irving, 28, was drafted by Calgary in the first round of the 20o6 draft and spent the first five years of his pro career with the Flames organization. During that time, he appeared in 13 NHL games with Calgary, posting a 3-3 record. After spending the two seasons overseas, Irving played all of last year in the AHL with Iowa, posting a 2.68 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Now, the former first round pick is hoping his experience helps land him a job in the Pittsburgh organization.
“Making the team is my main goal, but all I can do is play my game and enjoy the process,” Irving said. “Whatever comes of it, making the team or move on to somewhere else, I have a great opportunity here.”
With eight pro seasons under his belt, Irving believes he has developed a leadership quality that could prove beneficial to a Pittsburgh organization with young netminders such as Jarry, Casey DeSmith and Sean Maguire. He played the veteran leader role last season in Iowa, mentoring fellow netminders Jeremy Smith and Steve Michalek.
“I was able to go in there and watch them grow and develop. That part of the game - helping everyone else around you get better, becomes pretty fun,” Irving said.
Helping younger players grow is something Irving is able to do thanks dealing with adversity in his own career.
He calls his time in Calgary “bittersweet” but feels he didn’t reach his full potential with the Flames.
“A tough time. I can’t really put my finger on it - maybe it was the eye surgery, the hip surgery,” Irving said. “But now I feel like my game is finally coming together.
“They say it takes goaltenders a little longer to develop, and I’m a good example of that.”
- With Murray injured, the Penguins are left with Fleury and Jarry as the only healthy goaltenders with NHL deals. Casey DeSmith is signed to an AHL contract, Irving and Doug Carr are in camp as tryouts and Sean Maguire was injured during the summer and will miss 4-6 weeks. Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford didn’t rule out adding to the goaltending depth via a waiver claim.
- Oleksy skated without a visor during Saturday’s scrimmage and showed his physical side on several occasions, leveling players with open ice hits and making a nice hip check along the boards.
Oleksy said physical play is a big part of his game that he needs to show. “You don’t get to do it over the summer. To get the timing back, now’s the time to do it,” he said.
When asked if it’s tough to play physical against teammates, Oleksy said, “I’m trying to make a hockey team. My attitude is I’ll make friends after camp. The guys respect what I do and understand the position I’m in.”
- Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said forwards Bryan Rust and Oskar Sundqvist skated on their own on Saturday and should return soon.
- After signing an AHL deal this summer, DeSmith is attending his first NHL training camp. He said it’s a great opportunity to face shots from NHL players, even if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are absent due to playing in the World Cup.
“It would be cool to face them, but they have some more important things to do right now,” DeSmith said.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVeneskycomments powered by Disqus