Pens prepared to play Game 1 against Islanders without Crosby
The Penguins may be forced to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday at Consol Energy Center without their captain and one of their most respected leaders.
Good thing general manager Ray Shero went on a trading spree a month ago.
With the services of Sidney Crosby and Brooks Orpik in question entering Game 1 against the New York Islanders, the Penguins could be forced to rely on their depth.
“We have a lot of good players here,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “You need everyone to contribute in the playoffs.”
“Everyone” may get the opportunity sooner than expected.
Crosby's health is the dominant storyline in the first round. Out since breaking his jaw against the Islanders on March 30, Crosby has been skating with the Penguins for more than a week but has not been cleared for contact. He skated with the “fifth line,” along with forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale, during Tuesday's practice, which didn't inspire optimism that he will play in Game 1.
He insists, however, that his physicians will have the only say.
Crosby said if doctors cleared him for contact Tuesday evening, he would play Wednesday.
“As soon as he says the word,” Crosby said. “As long as he feels confident I can take a hit, I'll be confident as well. I'm not going to take any more time. If he says I can play, I will play.”
Still, there remains no assurances.
“At the end of the day I have to make sure I'm better,” Crosby said. “He's the one who knows best, not me. If you ask any player, you're always champing on the bit to come back.”
If he doesn't, a suitable replacement exists.
Jussi Jokinen isn't of Crosby's caliber, but he has been surprisingly productive.
In 10 games since being acquired from Carolina on trade deadline day, Jokinen has scored seven goals and recorded 11 points. Jokinen skated with wingers Jarome Iginla and Pascal Dupuis — Crosby's presumed linemates when he returns — during Tuesday's practice.
“I've played with them four or five games now,” Jokinen said. “We have some chemistry. We've produced, and we've done a nice job of keeping the puck out of our net. I'm not sure what my role will be, but I'll do whatever it takes to help us win hockey games.”
The same could be said of Orpik, who has played in 75 career postseason games. But Orpik appears even more doubtful than Crosby to play Wednesday.
Dealing with a lower-body injury, Orpik skated before practice Tuesday but did not join his teammates for practice.
If he can't play, defenseman Deryk Engelland — he has played in six career postseason games, all last season against the Flyers — likely will take his place.
“Other than Brooks having skated on his own,” coach Dan Bylsma said, “I don't have a further update for you.”
The Penguins hardly seemed to be rattled. Like the Penguins a generation ago with Mario Lemieux and his health problems, these Penguins have become accustomed to carrying on without Crosby.
“You hope for the best and that he's part of the lineup,” left wing Brenden Morrow said. “But we're kind of preaching that no guy is better than the team. If he's in the lineup, it makes us a better hockey team. But if he's not, somebody's going to step up.”
Make no mistake: Crosby is hungry to play.
“I'll wear anything to play, whether it's a football helmet or whatever,” he said. “Whatever it takes.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- Ehrhoff finding his way with Penguins
- Fleury collects career win No. 300 in crucial game against Bruins