There is no definitive, or even descriptive, update on the status of injured Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby beyond the news that he will miss his first game of the season Tuesday when the team plays the Rangers in New York.
Coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby “is continuing to be evaluated right now. … He will not play against the Rangers.”
Crosby did not practice with the club Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex and is not traveling to New York with his teammates Monday afternoon.
Crosby is the Penguins’ top-line center, team captain and leading scorer with 17 points in 17 games. He also could be described as the team’s heart, soul and conscience.
Sullivan bristled some when asked if Crosby might end up being out long term. “Well, what’s long term? … I don’t know.” the coach said.
Crosby left in the third period of Saturday’s shootout win against Chicago. There were two incidents on his final shift, and it’s unclear which caused the injury or whether the second simply aggravated things.
First, he collided with defenseman Erik Gustafsson near the left point. It wasn’t a severe collision, but Crosby seemed to get his leg or skates tangled with Gustafsson and bent backward awkwardly toward the boards while wincing. Then, at the other end, a shot by Gustafsson went off Crosby’s right foot. At that point, he skated to the bench and headed for the dressing room.
Losing such a keystone player isn’t something that will affect the team’s psyche to a great extent, Sullivan predicted.
“I don’t think the guys are deflated by any stretch,” the coach said. “Obviously, he’s a critically important player for us. He’s not an easy guy to replace with everything that he does and the way he helps our team and the contribution he makes. No one person is going to pick up that slack. We’re going to have to try to make sure that we pull together as a team. Everybody’s got to elevate their game. We still believe we have capable people in the lineup. That’s the way we look at it.”
In that third period Saturday and again at practice Monday, Jared McCann filled in for Crosby at top-line center, between Alex Galchenyuk and Jake Guentzel.
McCann, who also helped fill in for second-line center Evgeni Malkin when Malkin was hurt, showed no humor in shooting down any notion that he is “replacing” Crosby.
“No. I don’t look at it like that. He’s a guy you can’t replace,” said McCann, who has played more wing than center with the Penguins.
“Just keep playing my same game. I’m not going to change anything. We’re going to create opportunities for ourselves and play well defensively.”
Sullivan backed McCann.
“I think it’s a test of our depth, not just on our roster but within the organization as well,” he said. “Jared’s a player than when he’s been given an opportunity to play a more significant role has responded in a positive way. So we’re going to need him to do that (Tuesday in New York).”
The Penguins have been plagued by injuries this season. Before Crosby left Saturday’s game, the team already was without winger Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Kris Letang.
Crosby had a couple close calls previously. In the final preseason game, he got hurt blocking a shot but was able to return in time for the regular-season opener. At Dallas Oct. 26, he took a shot off his cheek or jaw and, while he wore extra facial protection for a time, he didn’t miss any games.
This time, it will be at least one game. Beyond that, well, he’s being evaluated.