PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins prevailed without their pair of $8.7m superstars in the lineup on Saturday night in a 3-2 win against Carolina. Jordan Staal played his best game since returning to the lineup on January 1 and timely scoring from rookies Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey keyed the Penguins to their fourth win in 5 games.
With only one game left before the All-Star break (against the New York Islanders), reports are indicating that the team will choose to rest Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin until February 1 at the earliest.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Crosby will miss Tuesday’s game, as well as the All-Star Game next Sunday:
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who has missed the past eight games because of a concussion, will not only miss a game against the New York Islanders next Tuesday, but the NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C. next Sunday, according to a person inside the Crosby camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Coach Dan Bylsma said on Friday that Crosby is “progressing, but still not symptom-free.” Experiencing post-concussion symptoms 16 days after the incident is a concern and it’s an easy decision for Crosby to take advantage of the All-Star break. He’ll need to be free of symptoms for at least a week before getting back onto the ice and into the lineup.
Evgeni Malkin has missed the last two games and talk at the arena late Saturday night hinted that he will also take advantage of the long break to get as healthy as possible. Last week we speculated that Malkin’s lack of production might be a result of a lingering knee issue and Bylsma confirmed this as well.
“It’s not something that’s ever completely gone away,” Bylsma said. “He rested there for a period of time, came back, and there’s times in games where he’s gotten bumped and been reminded [of the injury].”
Bylsma said Eric Godard (broken orbital) will return to full-contact practice on Monday with a full face-shield. If the team decides to play him on Tuesday, or at any point in the future, the Penguins can place Crosby or Malkin on injured reserve retroactively to free up a roster spot.
If Crosby also misses the February 1 game against the New York Rangers, the team can retroactively take the Long-Term Injury salary exception on him freeing up additional cap spending for replacements.
News and Notes
~ Pittsburgh still has two All-Star game representatives in Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. Pierre Lebrun reports that the NHL will pull replacements for players such as Crosby and Malkin from the group of rookies already attending the skills competition. There is even talk that the rookies could potentially earn their spot in the game via the skills contests on Saturday night. Penguins center Mark Letestu is not included in the rookie pool.
~ The Penguins outshot Carolina 24-22 last night, but gaining an advantage in this department hasn’t been as important to the team’s success as you might think. Pittsburgh is 12-4 when being outshot by an opponent – the best winning percentage in the league.
~ Racking up points against the Southeast Division has been easy for the Penguins this year. They are now a combined 11-2 against Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Florida.
~ Bylsma has been impressed with how well Staal has played so soon after returning to the lineup. “It’s tough to come back from injury, Bylsma said. “It’s tough to do it without having training camp. It’s tough not to have workout time, which he did not have because of his injuries. The strength at which he’s come back and the consistency at which he’s played is a tribute to how he plays. He’s a smart player, an intelligent player who is good positionally, but there’s still a jump and a power to his game that’s a real surprise.”
~ Tyler Kennedy received 3:02 in powerplay time on Saturday night and will need to put the puck in the net if he wants to maintain his role on the team for this year and beyond. Effort has never been a concern but the upcoming free agent has only scored twice in the past 21 games.