Penguins win, but lose Roberts with broken leg
Georges Laraque insists there is an unwritten rule among NHL players to avoid leaving the ice via a stretcher no matter the severity of an injury.
A broken left leg, he conceded, would provide a good excuse.
Not for the Penguins' ageless tough guy, Gary Roberts.
Roberts refused a stretcher after his left fibula was broken Saturday during a collision with Buffalo center Tim Connolly midway through the Penguins' 2-0 victory over the Sabres at Mellon Arena.
True to his reputation as a fierce warrior, Roberts needed only help from Laraque and defenseman Darryl Sydor to reach the dressing room.
Along the way, Laraque decided to lighten a somber mood.
"I made a joke because I did not know how bad it was," Laraque said. "I said, 'Gary, are you doing this to get another standing ovation?'
Roberts received applause from a sellout crowd prior to the game when he was honored by the Penguins for recently recording his 900th point -- an accomplishment earned in his 20th season, at the age of 41.
Roberts' left fibula was broken during a collision with Connolly at 13:32 of the second period. Roberts collapsed after Connolly accidentally slid into the back of his knee.
Connolly termed the incident as a "freak accident."
"I am not really sure what happened," Connolly said. "I just came in, made a move around a guy. I am not sure if it was Laraque or not. But I tripped or slipped and went down, and the next thing I know (Roberts) was on the ice.
"I was surprised to see him down. You never wish for something like that to happen."
The Penguins are unsure how much time Roberts will miss. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated in the coming days.
Forward Colby Armstrong's fifth goal of the season only 12 seconds into the second period staked the Penguins to a lead they would not surrender. Evgeni Malkin added an empty-net goal for his 15th tally at 19:38 of the third.
Goaltender Ty Conklin improved to 4-0-0 with the Penguins. He stopped 26 shots for his third career shutout.
Coach Michel Therrien suggested Conklin will start for the fourth time in five games at the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
"Success breeds confidence," Conklin said. "I feel pretty confident, like I only have to make one save because the defense is doing such a great job."
The Penguins' blocked 12 shots. They also won for the fourth time in five games and improved to 20-16-2 with 42 points.
They have gone 12-5-0 over their past 17 games. They trail first-place New Jersey by only three points in the Atlantic Division.
Though hot, the Penguins have been ravaged recently by injuries.
Defenseman Mark Eaton is out indefinitely with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He was injured during a win against Boston on Dec. 23.
Starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has resumed light skating, but is expected to miss at least another five weeks with a sprained right ankle.
Forward Max Talbot, also skating, is likely two weeks from returning. He too is nursing an ankle sprain.
"Injuries come into play," Armstrong said. "It has been tough to see guys like that going down -- key guys on this team. To see a guy like Roberts on the ice is tough, and he is going to be a tough guy to replace."