Although it looked like netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was potentially going to be ready to start in game one for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team is smartly choosing not to gamble with the starter’s health.
Instead, backup netminder Jeff Zatkoff will get his first NHL playoff game as the team’s starter against the New York Rangers.
Zatkoff surprised fans when he led the Penguins out onto the ice ahead of their 2016 first round playoff game on Wednesday evening, with the team opting not to dress Fleury in lieu of call-up prospect Tristan Jarry for the bench.
Drafted 74th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2004, Zatkoff is currently in his fourth season playing in Pittsburgh’s season, although he’s only made a combined 35 regular season appearances for the Metropolitan Division NHL club over the last three years. He’s gone 4-7-0 this year alone, posting a .917 save percentage in all situations during that time.
For the Penguins, this could drastically alter their strategy in the first game of their postseason run, as it’s clear that Fleury isn’t ready to appear in net and Jarry has yet to appear in a single NHL game during his rookie pro campaign. The former Edmonton Oil Kings netminder has been excellent at the AHL level this year – his 17-13-3 record has helped the minor league club look for a post-season run this year – but he’s a wild card to put out on the ice against the Rangers (who will feature Henrik Lundqvist on the other side of the ice).
The two teams will see puck drop at 7:00 PM EST tonight.