One of the two Pittsburgh Penguins out with a high ankle sprain is closer to returning.
No, it's not Sidney Crosby, but No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury took a big step toward getting back in the lineup Sunday when he was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL to begin a conditioning assignment.
Marc-Andre Fleury, right, has a 9-8-1 record this season.
(Gene J. Puskar/ Associated Press)
Fleury, who tied for third in the NHL with 40 victories last season, was expected to be out six to eight weeks after injuring his ankle in a 3-2 win in Calgary on Dec. 6, but his recovery has taken longer than expected.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien said Fleury, who had a 9-8-1 record before getting hurt, needs some game action in the minors to get back into playing shape.
"Practice is nice, he is working really hard at it," Therrien said. "He needs to play some games. We figure three or four games, depending on how he is able to perform."
Wilkes-Barre doesn't play again until Wednesday, then has four games in six days.
"I need to start somewhere," said Fleury, the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NHL draft.
Pittsburgh is 19-7-3 since Fleury was hurt, with Ty Conklin going 14-3-3 — including Sunday's 4-3 win over Philadelphia — as the Penguins' primary starter after beginning the season in the minors.
Fleury's slow recovery isn't encouraging for Crosby, who is trying for an early- to mid-March return from the high ankle sprain he suffered in a loss to Tampa Bay on Jan. 18.
Pittsburgh is 6-2-2 since then, with centre Evgeni Malkin recording eight goals and 21 points over that span. That includes three goals and 10 points during the Penguins' current three-game winning streak.With files from the Associated Press