Jeff Zatkoff is about ready to make his NHL debut, and it looks like it could come in the next game against the Florida Panthers.
Goalie Jeff Zatkoff will start one of the #Pens' back-to-back games this weekend, but Bylsma is not sure which one yet.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 9, 2013
While Marc-Andre Fleury is the class of NHL goaltenders early into this season in wins (3), GAA (1.00) and save percentage (.963 %), it was easy to figure that he’s not going to play every game. If last season weren’t a lockout but an 82 game normal season, Fleury would have started 53 games to backup Tomas Vokoun getting 29, and it seemed like the team wanted to keep that work breakout about the same for this year, prior to Vokoun’s hospitalization with blood clots.
So now, Fleury is bound to get a little more work, but obviously can’t play every single game and this weekend back-to-back trip is a natural way to get Zatkoff into his first career NHL regular season game.
And, really, it makes a lot of strategic sense to “ease him in” against the Florida Panthers, the Pens next game on Friday. Florida (1-2-0) has scored just five goals in their first three games. Their power play hasn’t scored a single goal yet. And their faceoff percentage is 26th out of 30. Their top scorer is defenseman Brian Campbell (0 goals, 3 assists) the only forwards with more than 1 point in three games are Marcel Goc and 18-year old rookie Aleksander Barkov.
Against the Panthers, in an ideal scenario, Pittsburgh should be able to control the puck, dictate play and probably not give up too many dangerous situations for their goalie, much like they did in the early games against New Jersey and Buffalo.
Tampa hasn’t started out on fire either, scoring just six goals in three games (or 2 goals a game for you math majors out there), but they’re still a team with a lot more individual weapons in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone and Valtteri Filppula that probably wouldn’t make for so easy a welcome to start an inexperienced player’s NHL career.
So, the smart play seems to be Zatkoff on Friday night in
Miami, err Sunrise, FL and then go back to MAF for the Tampa game on Saturday night.