The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

April 26, 2013

Crosby practices, return from injury uncertain

PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby’s smile betrays a jagged ridgeline of enamel along his bottom row of teeth, evidence of the extensive damage inflicted to Crosby’s jaw by a wayward shot a month ago.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain has learned to deal with the dull ache left by multiple dental procedures. The cumbersome mask he’ll be forced to wear whenever he returns is another matter entirely.

Crosby participated in noncontact drills Friday, his first practice with his teammates since breaking his jaw on March 30. Yet, Crosby remains vague on when he’ll be cleared to play and his status for next week’s playoff opener remains uncertain.

“It’s not really up to me to be honest with you,” Crosby said. “It’s something the (doctors) have to feel comfortable with the healing and that kind of thing. As soon as they say the word, I’ll be ready to go.”

The Penguins have survived just fine despite missing Crosby for the final quarter of the season.

Pittsburgh heads into today’s regular season finale against Carolina with the NHL’s Eastern Conference top seed already secure. Fueled by newcomers Brenden Morrow, Jossi Jokinen and Jarome Iginla – all acquired at the trade deadline – the Penguins have gone 7-4 in Crosby’s absence, including losses this week to Buffalo and New Jersey in relatively meaningless games.

Watching his team thrive while he’s relegated to wearing a suit and peering down on the ice from the box has been difficult. Yet, it’s also been a revelation of sorts. As vital as the NHL’s second-leading scorer is to Pittsburgh’s fortunes, Crosby knows the Penguins no longer need Crosby on the ice to be competitive.

“I think it’s been a great transition,” Crosby said. “I think we’re playing good hockey when we want to be and I think we should be happy and know that we’re ready to head into the playoffs.”

Crosby managed to keep his weight up despite the layoff and the limitations on his diet brought on by the jaw problems. He appeared just fine while buzzing around with his teammates, particularly on the power play unit. Yet, he was sure to avoid grinding things out in the corner or putting himself in a vulnerable position. He’s currently sporting a large plastic shield over the jaw, and the unwieldy nature of his new gear has proven troublesome.

“You’re definitely trying to find something that is going to protect you, but at the same time you want to be able to see the puck and that kind of thing,” Crosby said. “That’s what I’m using right now, but that might change depending on being able to adjust to it.”

Coach Dan Bylsma, like Crosby, declined to pinpoint a target date for Crosby’s familiar No. 87 to get back on the ice.

“It’s good to have him in practice and a step to have him in practice in a noncontact way and have him out there with the group but there’s not a timeline,” Bylsma said.

The Penguins can afford to wait a little while longer. A scheduling conflict at Consol Energy Center means the team won’t likely open the playoffs until Wednesday. That additional 24 hours could give Crosby’s jaw another 24 hours to heal convince the doctors that he’s out of any danger.

Though Crosby isn’t quite ready to go, defenseman Paul Martin (hand) and forward James Neal (concussion) will play today against the Hurricanes. Martin has missed 12 games while Neal hasn’t played since April 5 after taking an elbow to the head from New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

“Any time you miss time due to injury, you want to get your feel back as quickly as possible when you start playing again,” Neal said.

Crosby’s absence will allow Bylsma to continue to tinker with Pittsburgh’s lines trying to find the right combination. Crosby anchored the most productive line in hockey alongside Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis before getting hurt and the addition of so many new faces has forced Bylsma to get creative.

The only group that appears to be set is the third line, where Brandon Sutter, Matt Cooke and Morrow will give the Penguins some thump. The first, second and fourth lines remain very much a work in progress.

Yet, there are worse problems to have. Though Crosby will sit out the regular season finale, barring a setback he’s almost certain to play in the opening round. The Penguins will enter the postseason as the overwhelming favorite in the East. The pressure will only mount whenever Crosby laces up his skates. That’s OK with the Penguins. That’s the way they prefer it.

“I’ve never been in a dressing room that didn’t expect to win a Cup,” Murray said. “I think we know what lays ahead and when Sid’s ready, we’ll be ready.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0414 Pressure on Penguins to capture Cup

    The statistics are gaudy.
    And if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t find a way to extend their season into the final days of spring, ultimately forgettable.
    The same team that led the NHL in man games lost due to injury (more than 500) also earned 109 points, led the Metropolitan Division from mid-October on and received another peerless effort from star Sidney Crosby, who topped the league with 104 points and is a near lock for the second MVP award of his career.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0413 Brewers sweep away Pirates

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Senators dump Penguins in shootout

    April 13, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads