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Fleury, Kunitz offer hopeful September quotes

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Everything looks good before the season starts and both Chris Kunitz and Marc-Andre Fleury think they have a lot of good hockey left in them (as they should)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" -- Mike Tyson

That quote went through my mind after the very hopeful quotes that Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Kunitz offered on Thursday after informal practice at UPMC Lemieux.

First, the Flower, from the Trib

On where things stand between him and the Penguins: "I had a good talk with Jim and the coach when I left Pittsburgh for the summer. They basically both said the same thing. That’s where we’re at.

"I’ve always said this is like my home. I wish I could play here my whole career. I try to do my best for the team and for the organization.

"It’s the tough part of their job, but it’s the type of thing where they’re in good shape. Me and Matty (Murray) playing gives us a chance to win games and bottom line, that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter who’s in the net."


"I’m more of a day to day guy," he said. "Go with the flow. Practice hard. Play hard. Have fun while doing it. And I think it’s good for the team. Both guys can play, can win. It’s going to be a busy schedule."

Fleury said he had a "good talk" with Rutherford before he left Pittsburgh for the summer. Both men agreed that it was best for Fleury to remain with the Penguins for the 2016-17 season.

"That’s where we’re at," Fleury said. "It’s all good."

At 31, is Fleury starting to feel old, with a young player perhaps poised to snatch his job?

"You never know what’s going to happen," he said. "I’ve been fortunate to be here for a long time. I’m still young."

Fleury said he’s had no issues after dealing with two concussions during the second half of last season.

"It’s nice to be worry-free and to enjoy the game," he said.

It seems like Fleury and Matt Murray will both get quite a bit of playing time, as well both should. Fleury might think he's young, and he's certainly athletic (and coming off a .922 save season) but he's also about to turn 32 years old and closer to the end then the beginning. Plus he's had 2 concussions in the past year, with no certainty that his best health is still ahead of him. Though perhaps and hopefully it won't be an issue.

And there's that expansion draft next summer. Still, Fleury shouldn't be thinking about that or worse admitting the writing on the wall, he should be concentrating on the season to come as he is. Fleury's had a mid-career renaissance (concussions aside) in the past few years and could be set for another strong season.

Then there's the ageless Chris Kunitz turn for encouraging quotes, from the Trib again

He's not ready to let age or an abundance of talented young wingers around him on the Penguins push him out of hockey, though.

"I think you want to play until they take you out of it," Kunitz said. "You look at some of the veteran guys around the league, the Cullens and the Jagrs, some bodies hold up longer and better than others.

"As long as you can go out there and still contribute to your team, I think that's the main indicator, that you're still having fun and enjoying what you're doing."

I didn't expect him to treat this season (where he turns 37 in ten days) as a victory lap - after all, Bill Guerin still went to Philly on a PTO for camp in 2010, among many others to make them "take you out of it" but one would hope this is it for Kunitz in Pittsburgh.

He can still be a valuable player, even in advanced age, but the stats tell a story about how Father Time remains undefeated

Year Games Goals Points 5v5 Points/60
2010-11 66
23 48 2.27
2011-12 82
26 61 2.16
LOCKOUT
48
22 52 3.16
2013-14 78
35 68 2.18
2014-15 74
17 40 1.29
2015-16 80
17 40 1.70

Kunitz has been instrumental on this team since 2009, but he has been on the down-swing since an unreal peak in 2014. Kunitz remains a favorite of Sidney Crosby. And Sidney Crosby wouldn't be pleased with someone that can't do what he needs. As said above, though, Father Time comes back to everyone. Unless Kunitz has a wild resurgence, 2016-17 should be the last one for him in black and gold.

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Either way, though, you would want, hope and expect Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Kunitz to feel good before the season. And for both to think they have plenty of good hockey to come. And, hopefully they do because 82 games (and hopefully a long playoff run) ahead, so there will be the need for both these important players to play well.

However, realistically, with the expansion draft for the goal situation, and the passing of time, changes will be needed in 2017 if the Penguins want to be a Stanley Cup contender after this season. Kunitz is an alternate captain, Fleury might as well be if goalies could get that distinction. They're very important players in the coming season. But time stops for no man and the 2017-18 Penguins team will have to look a lot different and as of now, one would have to think this is the last rodeo in Pittsburgh for both these two-time Pittsburgh Cup winners with the Pens.