Fleury to make debut for Wild against Blue Jackets

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his Minnesota Wild debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

The goalie was acquired by the Wild in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday for a conditional first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. That day, Minnesota traded goalie Kaapo Kahkonen to the San Jose Sharks. Fleury has backed up Cam Talbot in each of the Wild’s past two games.

“Obviously it’s always different coming to a new team with new guys and new systems. It’s not always easy,” Fleury said Friday. “But you still want to do well, right? It’s your first impression, especially at home with our fans and stuff. [I’ll] try my best and hopefully things go well.”

Fleury was 19-21-5 with a 2.95 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 45 games with Chicago this season. The 37-year-old is third in NHL wins (511), behind Patrick Roy (551) and Martin Brodeur (691).

Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, is in the final season of a three-year, $21 million contract ($7 million average annual value) he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 13, 2018, and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. He played the seven games in the Golden Knights’ series win against the Wild in the Stanley Cup First Round last season.

“We all know he’s obviously world class, Hall of Fame, Stanley Cup goaltender. We all know that,” Minnesota coach Dean Evason said. “To bring somebody in like that, and to know [Talbot] and to know him and what they are as teammates, he’s trusted and knows that it’s going to work because of that. …They can do it together too, right? We talk about our players all the time, and it’s not one guy on our hockey club that’s scoring.

“…We’re not changing our philosophy because we’ve got Marc-Andre Fleury here. We’re going to evaluate (starting goals) after every game. We’re going game by game. We’ll evaluate how that goaltender played, how he’s played a lot of different elements, and we’ll make a call on who’s going to play.”

The Wild (38-20-4) are second in the Central Division, one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues and two points ahead of the Nashville Predators. Fleury will start against the Blue Jackets (8 pm ET; ESPN+, HULU), and Talbot, who has won seven straight starts, will play against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.

In 162 Stanley Cup Playoff games, Fleury is 90-70 with a 2.53 GAA, .912 save percentage and 16 shutouts. He won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

“Fleury, he’s my favorite goalie all-time,” Minnesota forward Kevin Fiala said. “I wanted to be a goaltender because of him when I was young watching the Pittsburgh Penguins all the time, [Sidney] Crosby, Fleury, just two of my favorites. So just looking at him, he’s in our locker room, it’s not realistic kind of.

“Every time I got to the League, I felt like I struggled to score on him. Maybe [I’m] a little starstruck. I don’t know. But he’s a great goalie. He reads the play. He’s like a defenseman out there; it feels like he sometimes jumps out. You can see him doing stuff like that. It’s great to have him on our side. I had so many chances last playoffs against him. I just scored one goal. Great thing to have him on our side.”

Fleury said it’s humbling to hear praise from his new teammates and hopes to take that first step in helping their playoff push.

“I think everybody knows that we’re going to try to make a run here, and it’s exciting,” Fleury said. “Everybody’s excited. But you’ve got to play toward [the playoffs], right? You keep building your game and where you want to be. It’s not that easy. …It’s a full season workload to get there. Obviously, the last little stretch is important.”


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