Sidney Crosby’s status remains uncertain for Penguins
NEWARK, N.J. — The status of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby remains uncertain four days after he suffered or possibly aggravated an undisclosed injury which has him sidelined indefinitely.
General manager Jim Rutherford declined to offer any updates when reached by phone by the Tribune-Review on Wednesday morning.
“I don’t have anything further than what (coach Mike Sullivan) has said,” Rutherford said. “Once I get concrete information from the doctors, then we’ll get it out as soon as we can.”
Early in the third period of Saturday’s 3-2 home shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks, Crosby got tangled up with Chicago defenseman Erik Gustafsson and tumbled to the ice awkwardly. Shortly afterward, he was struck on the right skate by a puck and departed the ice, retreating to the team’s facilities within PPG Paints Arena.
Crosby did not play in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime road loss to the New York Rangers. Prior to the game, Sullivan was asked if Crosby would be ruled out for Friday’s road game against the New Jersey Devils but declined to address anything beyond his immediate concerns.
“Right now, our focus is on the game (Tuesday) and he’s out tonight,” Sullivan said.
The Athletic reported Crosby is considering surgery after he aggravated a sports hernia which has hindered him since training camp.
Rutherford also declined to offer any updates on defensemen Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist, each sidelined with undisclosed ailments. Hornqvist is on injured reserve.
Rutherford did address a number of other subjects with this team.
• Goaltender Matt Murray leads the NHL (along with five other goaltenders) with nine wins this season. In 15 games this season, he has a 9-3-2 mark with a 2.39 goals against average, a .914 save percentage and one shutout. Additionally, he has only been pulled out of one game this season.
Because of injuries, he was not able to play in his 15th game last season until Dec. 27. Over that stretch, he had an 8-5-1 record along with a 3.30 goals against average, a .902 save percentage and two shutouts. He was also yanked early in three of those contests during that sequence due in part to a lingering ailment.
During Tuesday’s loss, Murray made 24 saves on 27 shots. In the first period alone, he faced 11 shots, including on a handful of breakaways.
“He’s had some really good ones,” Rutherford said. “But he certainly held us in in the first period. He’s always been a really good goalie. We saw that right from the first year when he won the (Stanley) Cup and he made a big impact on both those Cup teams (in 2016 and ‘17). No surprise on what he’s capable of doing. But his consistency level this year has been really good.”
Has Murray done anything specifically to level out his consistency?
“I think with that position, experience and maturity plays a big part,” said Rutherford, himself a former goaltender. “And he’s certainly got both.”
• After stringing together a handful of games in which he had generated several quality scoring chances, forward Alex Galchenyuk appeared to regress Tuesday. Sullivan even offered a critique of Galchenyuk which was hardly flattering.
“He’s just got to be more focused on just playing the game the right way,” Sullivan said following the game. “Competing on pucks, winning puck battles, being strong on the wall, all the details of the game. If a goal scorer struggles, just based on my experience, part of it is is taking the focus off of the scoring and just trying to focus on what you can control. That’s just how you play the game, how you think the game, how hard you compete on pucks. Just being focused on that next play, then I think that goal will come.”
Rutherford supplemented Sullivan’s assessment of Galchenyuk, who missed nine games in October because of an undisclosed injury.
“It’s unfortunate that he got hurt and anytime guys get hurt early in the year, they get behind. But I like how he’s working at it. He’s got to keep working on things and get a break here. He needs to do what he does best, start to score some goals. In some of these games, he’s changed his game. Like in the Rangers game (Tuesday), he’s passing some times when he’s got good opportunities to shoot. He’s just got to keep working at it. Hopefully, they start going in.”
Galchenyuk, the primary return in an offseason trade which sent popular forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes, has appeared in nine games and recorded three assists.
• On the opposite end of that spectrum would be forward Bryan Rust. He failed to score on Tuesday, but it wasn’t for lack of chances as he put five shots on net with seven shot attempts. Limited to seven games because of a left hand injury suffered in the preseason, he has seven points (five goals, two assists) and has been regularly lauded by Sullivan for outstanding play since the start of training camp in September.
“He was our best player in training camp,” Rutherford said. “He came in really ready to play and unfortunately, he got hurt. But he didn’t miss a beat. When he went back in the lineup. He continued on from where he was in training camp, and he’s been really good for us.”
• What hasn’t been good as of late has been the power play. The team snapped a wretched 0 for 28 slump on the power play Tuesday when forward Jared McCann scored in the second period.
“I felt like everybody did, it was nice,” Rutherford said with a chuckle. “It was a matter of time. You’ve got to get a break on it. I’m not overly concerned about the power play. Without Hornqvist in the lineup, it makes it a little bit difficult. Sometimes, we don’t seem to create enough chaos in front of the goalie. The goalie is seeing a lot of these shots, even the good opportunities we’re getting. So we’ve got to get back to that, getting the goalie’s focus off a little bit and getting more pucks to the net.”
• Forward Nick Bjugstad scored his first goal of the season on in a 6-4 road loss to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 4. But any hopes of that triumph leading to further offense have gone unfulfilled as Bjugstad has failed to record any points in the three ensuing contests despite an elevated role on the top power-play unit in the slot due to the absences of Crosby and Hornqvist. During Tuesday’s game, he took a tripping penalty which provided the Rangers their first power-play opportunity in the third period with the score tied, 2-2.
Rutherford remains optimistic Bjugstad, who also missed nine games in October because of injury, can offer a greater contribution.
“He got behind like some of the other players that had injuries,” Rutherford said. “He’s still playing that catch-up game. But he’ll get there.”
• The Penguins canceled practice Wednesday and are scheduled to take the ice Thursday in advance of Friday’s meeting with the Devils.
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .