WILKES-BARRE — Tristan Jarry hasn’t played for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins since Oct. 28, having spent the last three months with Pittsburgh.
Despite the long absence, Jarry said nothing has changed with his return to the AHL club.
“I have the same mindset I had when I was in Pittsburgh. Every day I want to improve and get better. This is a new opportunity for me to develop my game,” he said.
Jarry was reassigned by Pittsburgh on Wednesday and practiced with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday, manning the ice with Anthony Peters in the other net. He had a strong showing with Pittsburgh, posting a 9-4-2 record with a 2.44 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. But Jarry’s run as Pittsburgh’s starter was halted by the strong play of Casey DeSmith, who has allowed four goals in three consecutive starts for the NHL club.
DeSmith’s strong play coupled with the return of Matt Murray meant there was no reason for Pittsburgh to keep three goaltenders, much less leave Jarry sitting and watching.
It was clear that Pittsburgh wanted Jarry to keep playing, and for now, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is the best place to achieve that.
Head coach Clark Donatelli said Jarry will start both of the team’s games this weekend.
“When he’s down here we want to get him in there and make sure he’s getting his reps,” Donatelli said. “The plan is for him to get as many games as he can down here.”
That sounds good to Jarry, who has only played in five games — all in October — for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He got off to a rough start, allowing 12 goals in his first three games before giving up two goals in each of the last two contests.
And despite playing well in Pittsburgh, Jarry had no issue with head coach Mike Sullivan’s decision to stick with the hot hand in net, which is DeSmith for now.
“It’s a great way to go about it,” Jarry said. “It’s a very tight race there from first to the wild card spot. If a goalie is playing well, give him a chance again.”
Jarry pledged that he will use the time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s net to stay focused and assured that, if Pittsburgh calls again, he’ll be ready.
Donatelli said Jarry can play himself back into Sullivan’s “hot hand” approach by playing well in the AHL.
“We don’t want our young goalies sitting around not getting games,” Donatelli said. “He might as well come down here so when he does get that call he’s sharp.”
• Tom Kostopoulos continued to practice in full and is still a possibility to return this weekend, Donatelli said. Tom Sestito did some brief skating on his own before practice but is still week-to-week, as are Lukas Bengtsson and Michael Leighton.
• Daniel Sprong will be the Penguins’ lone representative at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 28-29. When asked which category he thinks would be the best fit for Sprong’s abilities, Donatelli didn’t hesitate.
“The shot. Both of them. The accuracy and hardest shot,” he said.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky