Sabourin Excited To Be Back In 'Burgh
The goaltender signed with the Penguins as a free agent during the offseason. However, it’s not like he came to a strange place; rejoining the team is like coming back home for Sabourin.
“I have been gone for just one year and it’s pretty much the same group here with just a couple new guys. I played with a lot these guys in Wilkes-Barre, so I know them and I know the coach and the organization,” he said. “It always feels good to go back to a team you know.”
The 26-year-old netminder spent two years in the Penguins organization and blossomed into one of the top goaltenders in the American Hockey League with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2005-06. He went through training camp in Pittsburgh last season, but was third on the goaltending depth chart behind Marc-Andre Fleury and Jocelyn Thibault. He was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but Vancouver claimed the 6-foot-4 Sabourin off waivers before he could even report to the Baby Penguins.
While he was sad to leave the organization, he was excited to get a chance to spend last year in the NHL as the backup to Robert Luongo.
“I was really happy to have a chance to play a full year with Vancouver, but I was upset to leave an organization that I was growing up with,” he said. “I am really glad to be back. I was happy to go to Vancouver last year when they picked me up so I could gain some experience in the NHL. Coming back here I am really happy. I am coming back to an organization I know and am really comfortable with.”
With workhouse Luongo in goal for the Canucks, Sabourin played in only nine games and posted a 2-5-0 record with a 2.26 goals-against average. However, it was the experience of spending a full year in the NHL that really benefited Sabourin.
“That’s what I needed, so that is why I am really happy I was able to go to Vancouver,” he said. “That’s what I was asking for – to get a full year in the NHL and get comfortable and get my first win and all that stuff out of the way. Now that I got that, it’s going to be another step this year.”
And, he improved his game working with Luongo, one of the NHL’s top netminders last season.
“I watched a lot – just watching him play and the way he handled himself off the ice with the media and all that stuff. I learned a lot from him,” he said. “We’re not the same style of goalies. We pretty much have the same technique, but there are little things we do differently. Every goalie does his own thing. Just watching him how he reads the play and that kind of stuff.
“He’s a very good guy. All-around it was a good year for me.”
Luongo wished he had learned a little from Sabourin, too, especially after Penguins star Sidney Crosby scored on him during the penalty shot contest at the NHL All-Star skills competition in Dallas.
“No, he didn’t ask me about Sid. I should have given him a scouting report,” Sabourin said with a laugh. “When he got scored on by Sid and then came back, he was kind of mad because Sid beat him with a shot between his legs and he didn’t like that.”
Sabourin kept tabs on the Penguins throughout the year, too.
“Oh yeah. The guys in Vancouver kept telling me to quit watching the Penguins since I was in Vancouver,” he said with a laugh. “When you know the guys and you played a couple years with them, you want to know how things go, so I was watching the games and highlights. I was kind of cheering for the Penguins even if I was in Vancouver since we were not in the same conference.”
Now that he’s back with the Penguins, Sabourin works with another one of the NHL’s top goaltenders in Fleury. The two Quebec natives remain good friends on and off the ice.
“We’re good friends. Even during the summer, we see each other,” Sabourin said. “On and off the ice, we’re good friends, so it works out pretty good. We started in Wilkes-Barre together. It’s been a great.”
The learning process continues for Sabourin – and Fleury. Both work together to improve their games.
“Yeah, for sure, and at the same time, I think Fleury likes to learn a lot. When we were in Wilkes-Barre, he was always asking me questions,” he said. “He likes to learn and asks a lot of questions about the game. I can learn from him, too. The chemistry is good between us.”
Overall, Sabourin looks forward to playing in Pittsburgh this season.
“It’s good to be back in Pittsburgh,” he said. “It’s a good team and a good bunch of guys here. We’re just working on focusing on training camp right now.”