After going unclaimed on waivers over the weekend, Ottawa Senators goalie Matt Murray was sent down to the AHL’s Belleville Senators, where the club hopes he can regain his form following early-season struggles.
After participating in practice over the past few days, Belleville head coach Troy Mann spoke with TSN 1200 Ottawa regarding the team’s plan for Murray and whether he will start immediately on Wednesday against the Utica Comets.
“It’s all still a little up in the air,” said Mann. “I haven’t spoken to Matt to see how he feels after two days. We’re going to chat in Utica regarding whether tomorrow night’s game is where we’re going to start him or whether we’re going to get him another goalie session with [goaltending coach Justin Peters] and another practice on Friday to play Manitoba Saturday.
“I did talk to Pierre Dorion this morning and Peter McTavish last night and now it’s a matter of sitting down with Matt and [Peters] and we’ll put a game plan together over the next three or four days.”
Amidst his struggles, Murray has missed several games due to COVID protocols, a neck/head injury, and another non-COVID-related illness earlier in the season. As a result of Ottawa losing practice time due to a COVID breakout, Murray hasn’t had many practices to find his form. Mann hopes the slower AHL schedule will give Murray more time to get back on track but will ultimately leave the decision up to the 27-year-old goaltender.
“When I met with Matt yesterday he hadn’t been on the ice in four or five days. And obviously, with his being sick earlier in the season and missing time due to COVID, he hasn’t played a ton of hockey,” said Mann. “That’s why we’re not going to name a starter for tomorrow. We’ve only got one chance at this, to get it right and I want to make sure to put him in a place to succeed.
“I certainly have my own ideas of what should transpire but at the same time, you have to communicate with the player. If he thinks he’s done enough to get into game action after four or five days off then that’s what we’ll do.”
Murray has a 3.26 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in six games this season, He had a 10-13-1 record last season with a 3.38 GAA and a .893 save percentage in his first year with the Senators after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mann says that, while the club’s goal is to get Murray back on track, his main goal is to help Belleville reach the playoffs in April. He states the club will take things game by game, ensuring Murray and fellow goaltender Mads Soogard both get playing time.
“We want to get Matt Murray back to the level he needs to be at but he certainly has to earn it as well,” said Mann. “At the end of the day, he’s not going to play every game. Matt Sogaard needs to play as well.
“Whether Matt Murray is here for one game or 20 games, if he can help us get to where we want to be come April it’ll be fantastic for everybody."