Thibault clears waivers, could be headed to AHL

PITTSBURGH -- Goaltender Jocelyn Thibault cleared waivers Wednesday, but the Pittsburgh Penguins apparently plan to keep him with the club for now.

The Penguins asked Thibault on Monday to spend several weeks of conditioning work with their AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm club, but he refused that assignment. The team then placed him on waivers.

Pittsburgh can now assign Thibault to the minors if it chooses, but he would have to clear waivers again if the team sought to bring him back. If he were claimed, the Penguins would be responsible for paying half of the remaining portion of his salary this season.

Thibault has gone 1-7-2 with a 4.38 goals-against average with Pittsburgh, which acquired him in August in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Penguins wanted a veteran goalie until they felt Marc-Andre Fleury, the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NHL draft, was ready to play regularly in the NHL.

Thibault has been sidelined twice this season after being injured on the day of a game. He was struck on the knee by a puck during the game-day skate before the Penguins' home opener Oct. 8 and was out for nearly two weeks, and then he missed a Nov. 16 game in Philadelphia after being struck in the neck by a puck during warmups.

Fleury was recalled Monday from Wilkes-Barre and was in net for a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. He was criticized afterward by coach Eddie Olczyk for allowing what Olczyk called a "soft goal" on Ales Kotalik's game-winner in the third period, a one-timer from the left circle that sailed between Fleury's pads.