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Penguins:Wilkes-Barre Meets Pittsburgh

Posted By Michael Waterloo On Feb 10 2011 @ 10:33 pm In Pittsburgh | No Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins entered their game tonight against the L.A. Kings with 42 goals this season by the forwards on their active roster.  No, I didn’t forget to type Sidney Crosby or anyone else’s name there, although I wish I had.  The forwards slated to play against the Kings have a COMBINED 42 goals on the season.  My, how the season changed in the blink of an eye.  When the Winter Classic was here, it marked the season debut of center Jordan Staal as he was finally able to overcome a foot infection and a broken hand.  The Pens were on a roll and were finally a complete unit that looked to build on their already impressive start to the season.  Two games later however, after a Victor Hedman hit from behind to Crosby’s head, the flow of the season came to a halt.  Crosby was told he had a mild concussion and the injury usually lasts about a week, so there was no major panic.  It was unclear whether the check from Hedman or the massive hit from David Steckel during the Winter Classic was the one that caused the concussion, but Crosby hasn’t played since taking the Hedman hit on January 5th.  The story only gets worse from there.

Evgeni Malkin missed 5 games with a sprained knee and a sinus infection but that didn’t stop the Pens from rolling along just fine.  That is until their February 4th contest against the Buffalo Sabres, a game the Pens came back to win 3-2.  But they really ended up losing that night, as Malkin tore both his ACL and MCL.  After a successful surgery, the very optimistic return time of 6 months was given to Malkin.  Add injuries to Mark Letestu (6 weeks, knee surgery), Chris Kunitz (lower body injury) and a suspension to Matt Cooke (for yet another dirty hit), the Pens’ season has been flipped upside down.  The status of Crosby is unknown.  There have been reports that he will be done for the year, but Crosby wouldn’t confirm nor deny those reports, saying that he hopes to be able to return this season.  What should we make of the Pens’ season from here on out?  Should they be active as the February 28th trade deadline approaches to replace Malkin’s scoring or should they stand pat?

To me, it all depends on the progression of Crosby.  It appears that it will be later rather than sooner, which isn’t good.  This is Crosby’s first concussion and athletes become more susceptible to them after their first.  Just ask Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins who has been placed on season-long injured reserve for his second concussion.  Savard hasn’t been the same player since the initial concussion that was suffered against the Pens (the result of a Cooke cheap shot, coincidentally enough).  That should be reason to worry and reason to take it slow with Crosby.  The most important thing is to continue to let him take his time and not risk rushing him back.  The kid is the face of the league and, at only 23, he has a lot of hockey left ahead of him.  As of press, the Pens are currently in 4th place in the East, 14 points ahead of the 9th place Atlanta Thrashers, so their playoff spot is in no jeopardy right now.  If Sid is able to return for the playoffs, regardless of their seed, you have to like their chances.  If they know that Crosby will be back this season, then they should make a trade for someone before the trade deadline.  They won’t go for the Calgary Flames’ Jerome Iginla, as they would have to give up to much in a rent-a-player situation, which it would be since they won’t be able to afford his contract after this season.  I personally like Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild, but I don’t see Shero making a move for him, a deal which, in my estimation, would need to include Alex Goligoski.  The move that makes the most sense is for the Ottawa Senators’ Alex Kovalev, the former Penguin who is reportedly available for as low as a third-round pick.  I would have liked for the Pens to get Mike Fisher from the Senators (if only to bring Carrie Underwood to the city), but the Nashville Predators were able to make a move for him earlier today.  If it looks like Sid is going to miss the remainder of the year, however, it’s not worth it to make a significant move.

Going into tonights game, the Penguins have suffered back-to-back losses since losing Malkin for the year and have been outscored in those contests 7-1.  Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke are the current leading active goal scorers with 10 apiece for the club.  The Pens need to be able to find a way to step it up and continue to win games by playing close to the vest defensively. They had 6 players in the lineup against the Kings that started the season in Wilkes-Barre with the Baby Pens, including 4 players making their Penguins debuts tonight: Ryan Craig, Nick Johnson, Brett Sterling and Joe Vitale.  Hopefully they can make the most of this opportunity, and showcase some of their skills and be contributors for the Pens.  The fact that so many of the younger guys are up here, and the fact that the Pens play the same style of hockey the whole way up and down the system should allow for some continuity and familiarity with each other.

Here’s to hoping for a healthy and quick recovery for Crosby.  Sid, we need you more than ever.

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