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Early injuries may have been a blessing in disguise for the Penguins

In light of the recent parade through the streets of Pittsburgh, it's easy to forget that things didn't exactly take off in the right direction for Pittsburgh back in October. Or maybe we just choose not to remember.  Two of the team's top defensemen, Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar, were out with injuries.  Petr Sykora battled through an upper-respiratory infection and groin pull before he even played his first regular season game.  By November/December, Philippe Boucher, Mike Zigomanis and Tyler Kennedy hit the injury list, in addition to a one-month layoff for Marc-Andre Fleury.  Things looks rather dark for the team.  A playoff berth, let alone the Stanley Cup, was the immediate goal.

Of course by now you've likely read countless articles and comments suggesting that no one could've predicted the Penguins would rebound from the mounting injuries and go on to win the Cup.

But that's not what this post is about.  Let's talk a bit about the team's depth and how it not only supplied the Penguins with an immediate solution but also provided some insight into the future of the team.

Injuries to the blue line allowed highly-touted prospect Alex Goligoski a chance to play a bit for the parent club.  And by "a bit" I mean 46 games.  In his first game in the black and gold, GoGo scored his first-career NHL goal in the dying seconds of a 3-1 loss to Ottawa that prevented an early season shutout.  Over the remainder of the season, before being demoted to Wilkes-Barre in March, Goligoski posted the following over 46 games:

G A P +/- PIM
2008 - Alex Goligoski 6 14 20 5 16

It's not what you'd call Sergei Gonchar replacement material, but it did provide some invaluable insight into how he carried himself on the professional level.  Fast forward three months and the Penguins up his contract to three years

When Marc-Andre Fleury went down with an undisclosed lower-body injury back in November, head coach Michel Therrien experimented with Dany Sabourin a bit.  When that didn't pan out exactly like he wanted it to, prospect John Curry got the call.  Curry's first appearance came on November 26 as mop-up duty for Sabourin.  He stopped all 11 shots faced and kept Pittsburgh in the game, one that ultimately led to a five-goal rally by Pitt to win 5-3.

Two nights later Curry received his first start against the Buffalo Sabres, but dropped that game 4-3.  In his last appearance on December 11 (once again against the Islanders), Curry gave up two goals en route to a monstrous 9-2 win.  That game is likely better known for hat tricks from Sykora and Pascal Dupuis.

With that last victory, and Fleury's healthy return, Curry was sent back down to the AHL.  Although he currently holds a 2-1 record with Pitt, his final 2008/09 record - 33-15-1.  Impressive numbers for a youngster with very little NHL experience. 

2008 - John Curry 3 150 2 1 0 0 6 2.40 69 63 .913 0

As the league edged toward free agency we run a solid chance of seeing some of the dominant players in the Stanley Cup run go elsewhere.  That's just one aspect of the game that will never change.  Unless of course the NHL follows suit with the MLB and loses the salary cap (Gary B, if you're reading - please don't.)  Yet the confidence we can take, and something I'm sure the front office will consider in their future dealings, is how the farm guys showed up for the club during the regular season.  GoGo got his deal.  Will John Curry get his?  We'll touch up on the back-up goaltending situation a bit tomorrow as well.