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Penguins Practice: Crosby Looks Ready, DeSmith Mask Draws Laughs

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Casey DeSmith
Left: Casey DeSmith (photo by Michael Miller). Right: DeSmith's mask. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

Casey DeSmith is paying homage to Dwight Schrute. Sidney Crosby certainly looks ready. The Pittsburgh Penguins power play has been more lifeless than impactful and produced well below needed levels. Head coach Mike Sullivan reconfigured the power play on Wednesday without top power-play point Kris Letang while the defenseman is in COVID protocol with symptoms.

PP1 included Sidney Crosby. DeSmith mask does not include a stapler or a jello mold.

That’s yet another step forward in Crosby’s rehab from wrist surgery that occurred about six weeks ago. Crosby was to miss six weeks, and judging by his participation in the Penguins hour-long practice at PPG Paints Arena, if he’s not ready for Thursday, he’ll be ready very, very soon.

Crosby charged to the net in drills and banged on defensemen near the crease. He also engaged in stick checks, for and against, in yet another sign the Pittsburgh Penguins captain is close to 100%.

On Friday, Crosby discussed his injured wrist, which nagged him for seven years. He first injured it on an open-ice hit against Ryan Reaves in 2014. Crosby and Reaves collided at center ice, and predictably Crosby got the worst of it.

Crosby, 34, conceded the wrist surgery could not be duplicated 

“He hasn’t gotten any worse,” DeSmith laughed.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan did reconfigure the power-play units.

PP1: John Marino-Evan Rodrigues

Sidney Crosby-Jake Guentzel-Jason Zucker.

PP2: Mike Matheson-Danton Heinen

Kasperi Kapanen-Drew O’Connor-Dominik Simon

Casey DeSmith Mask

How about that mask from DeSmith?

The Penguins backup goalie admitted that Teddy Blueger razzed him that his mask was “too generic” and that he “could have bought it at Dicks.”

DeSmith provided the air quotes above, too. So, he turned his new design over to Blueger, and that’s what the Penguins duo came up with.

“So, on the back of the mask is Dwight Schrute at the podium giving his speech to the Dunder Mifflin salesmen for getting Salesman of the Year,” DeSmith began sheepishly. “It’s a pretty well-known speech if you’re an Office fan. The painter did a good job,” he smiled.

Teddy Blueger was also called to the Penguins press podium for a rebuttal but denied nothing. Blueger made a few modifications as a joke. He wasn’t sure how far DeSmith would take it, but DeSmith kept them all.

For non-fans, here is the clip.

DeSmith has played just one game this season. He lost in overtime against Florida when the Penguins squandered a two-goal third period lead.

Decisions, Decisions

The Pittsburgh Penguins have decisions to make. However, PHN asked if Sullivan has yet gotten to where he knows what he’ll do with a healthy Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Evan Rodrigues, and Brian Boyle.

Of course, Sullivan would never share lineup information days before a game, but his answer might indicate that Crosby isn’t ready for Thursday.

“We have an idea of when we have a full complement of players what our roster might look like…but things change and performance matters, right? We also believe in creating a certain meritocracy where how you perform matters,” Sullivan said. “And there’s internal competition that’s very high right now. We have a lot of players playing really well. It makes for very difficult decisions as a coaching staff, but those are always good challenges they have.”

But Sullivan’s unsure-verbiage in the following quote made a couple of us scribes wonder if Crosby may not return for a bit longer.

“I think we’re going to have some difficult decisions inevitably when that moment occurs, and we’re looking forward to those difficult decisions. You know, hopefully, it’ll be sooner than later because that suggests that some of these guys are going to be back in our lineup…”

If Crosby were a strong possibility for Thursday, perhaps we would have received a more finite answer?

But it is a good problem for the Penguins to have. Drew O’Connor, Brian Boyle, Evan Rodrigues, and Danton Heinen are playing well. Dominik Simon, too.

There are six players and three spots.

It’s not quite Mad Max (two men enter, one man leaves), but we’re getting to that point when we find out who is in the complete Penguins lineup. But–it doesn’t sound like Thursday is the day. Of course, that could change on Thursday, too.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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