Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan twice declined on Sunday to confirm or deny Penguins captain Sidney Crosby would make the west coast trip. However, Tuesday morning Crosby skated with Penguins skills coach Ty Hennes prior to the Penguins morning skate in Vegas, but then the Penguins got better news.
After Crosby skated with fellow injured Penguins Nick Bjugstad and Justin Schultz, according to social media reports from the Penguins radio network then he joined the full team for the morning skate as a full participant. However, he did not take part in line rushes, which indicates he is highly unlikely to play Tuesday.
“We’re just trying to take each day as it comes and make the best decisions to allow for the best rehab process,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “When Sid’s ready to play, we’ll insert him into the lineup.”
Crosby was the Penguins leading scorer in November, but his sports hernia worsened after he tangled with a Chicago defender on Nov. 9. Crosby had core muscle surgery to repair the injury and has been out since. He had 17 points, including seven goals.
Last week, Crosby told reporters including PHN’s Shelly Anderson that his injury was improving but he was taking it week-by-week. He has skated with the team twice in the last two weeks but has not yet done so as a full participant.
“It’s a (matter of) him working with the medical staff to make sure he’s comfortable and confident to be at his best,” Sullivan said.
Bjugstad also had core muscle surgery. He last played on Nov. 15 but struggled this season with just one point in 10 games.
Schultz has been out of the Penguins lineup since Dec. 17 when he suffered a lower body injury. In 27 games, Schultz has just eight points including two goals but is an unhealthy minus-five. The Penguins second pairing defenseman averages over 20 minutes of ice time, has played mostly with Marcus Pettersson and been the Penguins primary power-play quarterback.
The right-handed Schultz will be an unrestricted free agent after this season when his three-year contract with a $5.5 million annual salary expires.
The Penguins begin their three-game Western Conference road trip Tuesday in Las Vegas. The team will play in Colorado on Friday and Sunday they are in Arizona against former assistant coach Rick Tocchet and two-time Stanley Cup winner Phil Kessel. You may remember the Penguins honored their former teammate Kessel with a tribute video when the Penguins hosted Arizona last month.
The Penguins have not had a full lineup for an entire game this season. Usual Sidney Crosby linemate Jake Guentzel is out for the season and the Penguins have been one of the most injured teams in the NHL.