PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins final preseason game Saturday afternoon was costly. In addition to the shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins lost a couple top-six forwards, including one all-world player.
Sidney Crosby, the Penguins captain and top player got hit in the right foot by a Mario Scandella shot. Rust got hit in the right hand by a Colin Miller shot. Crosby did not immediately retreat to the locker room, while Rust went straight off the ice.
The news surrounding Crosby was somewhat encouraging Sunday. Coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby was held out as a precaution. Crosby skated very briefly without pads before practice Sunday. Coach Mike Sullivan described Crosby as “day to day” and added that “his status is encouraging.”
Rust is still being evaluated, Sullivan said.
It is not clear whether Crosby and/or Rust will be available Thursday when the Penguins open the season against Buffalo at PPG Paints Arena.
“If you lose a player like (Crosby), it’s got to be (filling in) by committee because he’s such a good player and does everything for us,” said Crosby’s set winger, Jake Guentzel.
The indication is that Jared McCann might center that top line if Crosby misses time. McCann and Guentzel played some together last year with Crosby centering.
“He’s a fun player to play with. Plays hard and uses his speed a lot,” Guentzel said of McCann.
Also still out is Alex Galchenyak, who had been playing alongside and apparently meshing well with Malkin. He is still considered day to day with an undisclosed injury, but Sullivan said Galchenyuk is getting better, did an off-ice workout Sunday and is expected to skate on his own Monday.
Still, that means three players who could or would play among the top six forwards are hurt.
“First of all, we have four more days for (them to get) back,” the Penguins’ other top center, Evgeni Malkin, said. “I hope it’s not bad. It’s always tough if you lose a couple good players. Sid and Rust are a huge part of (the team). We need to wait and see what’s going on. I hope they’re back, but we still have four lines if they’re not back. But, again, we have four more days. I hope they rest and are back.”
The Penguins did not do line rushes at practice Sunday, so it’s not known what the combinations would be without one, two or three of the top-six forwards who are out. Malkin has been playing with Dominik Kahun with Galchenyuk out. It sounds as if Malkin misses Galchenyuk.
“Coach tries new lines, Play with different players. It’s all good players,” Malkin said. “(Kahun is) a smart player. We play, like, not bad. We had a couple chances. I hope Alex is back.”
The Penguins have a scheduled day off Monday, so the next injury updates might not occur until Tuesday.
Crosby, 32, had his No. 87 retired by his junior team Rimouski Oceanic Friday night. The QMJHL also announced the league would retire his number, as well. He traveled back to Pittsburgh in time for Saturday’s preseason finale, his second preseason game.
Crosby traditionally had played in three preseason games, but he and the Penguins were managing his workload a little differently this year — not that being hurt by a shot is anything that could realistically be managed.
The Penguins had another scare at practice Sunday at the arena. No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray left the crease and was doubled over in pain at the bench for a few minutes. He eventually finished practice. He apparently got hit in the Adam’s apple, making it difficult to breathe temporarily.
In a less pressing injury update, forward Adam Johnson, who has been hurt, was cleared and sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.