GARRIOCH: Matt Murray returns to Ottawa after a month-long stay in Belleville

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There was a familiar face left on the ice with the Ottawa Senators Tuesday.

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Matt Murray was recalled from the club’s AHL company in Belleville and skated with his Ottawa teammates at the Canadian Tire Center.

The 27-year-old Murray, who approved exemptions last month and was awarded Belleville on Nov. 28 to get his game together, was brought back to Ottawa after goalkeeper Anton Forsberg was put on record after testing positive for COVID- 19 Monday.

Murray will not get a chance to meet his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates on Friday at. 13.00 because that match was officially postponed due to participation restrictions. The Senators’ next game will be against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Arena.

Backup goalkeeper Filip Gustavsson, who was placed in protocol last week, will be back on the ice on Wednesday after spending 10 days in isolation due to a positive test.

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This was Murray’s first skate after completing a 10-day quarantine due to an outbreak in the Belleville room.

Murray, who earns $ 6.25 million per season in the second season of a four-year contract extension he signed with the club after being swapped for the Senators in October 2020, is happy to be back with his Ottawa teammates.

“I did not see it as much as a reset, as I saw it as something where I just had to keep going,” Murray said in a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “I had to keep building on positive things and I had to keep trying to harden my game and that’s what I feel I did.

“It was a little choppy with all the COVID-19 stuff that was out of your hands. I was just trying to get the best out of it.”

Sending Murray to Belleville did not work as general manager Pierre Dorion, coach DJ Smith and goalkeeping coach Zac Bierk wanted when they made the decision last month. He only suited two AHL matches because Belleville had a COVID-19 outburst on a road trip.

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There’s really nothing the senators can do about it, and he got a lot of one-on-one time with Belleville goalkeeping coach Justin Peters. Murray finished with a 1-1-0 record in the two games he played with a save percentage of 0.918 and an average of 2.55 goals.

Dorion said that now that Murray is back, he will get his chance to play.

“We’re very happy to have Matt Murray back,” Dorion said. “Having a goalkeeper of his caliber and what he’s done before is great to have him back. As the DJ said earlier, we will do everything we can to put him in a situation where he can succeed. .

“Unfortunately we wanted him to go down there and get a lot of playing time, but he got a lot of training time, so hopefully we get to see the Matt Murray who won two Cups and Matt Murray who played well for us in the last part of last year.”

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Peters and Murray have a long relationship that goes back to when they skated together as teenagers. It helped make the move easier.

“We used to skate together when he was still playing and we had the same goalkeeping coach,” Murray said. “I know him really well, so it made the transition smooth. We had fun, we had a lot of really long talks about all sorts of things, of course also goalkeeping games.

“He was great to work with and I can’t say enough good things about him. As a coach and as a person, I was really grateful to be able to spend some time with him.”

Murray made 26 saves to secure a 3-2 away win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on December 12. It was his first AHL victory since the 2015-16 campaign when he was with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins.

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It was also Murray’s first pro win since April 22 last season against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. He has not won in six NHL starts this season with a record of 0-5-0 with 3.26 goals against the average and 0.890 save percentage.

He went to the AHL in the right mood and worked hard while he was there.

“We all have a common goal here and that is to win hockey games,” Murray said. “My job is to keep the puck out of the net and I do not have much control over the other things. They tell me I’m going to Belleville, I’m going to Belleville, so I just have to take it in stride.

‘I was just going to think about what I wanted out of it. I’m super grateful for (Peters) and (Troy Mann) and the guys in Belleville. ”

Smith said senators want Murray to be successful.

“We just want him to come back to do what he does,” Smith said. “Sometimes a mental break is better than anything else just to get a refresh and a restart. The team will play better in front of him, we have to limit the chances and set him up for some success.

“He’s going to get a few days of training here and he wants to be ready.”

Forsberg will have to hold a 10-day quarantine and will not be eligible to join the senators until they arrive in Vancouver next week to begin a four-game Western Canadian turn.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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