Add two more names to the rapidly increasing injury pile that the Pittsburgh Penguins are dealing with:
Here's the complete list, since it can be tough to keep up:
The following players are out for a while:
- Hainsey, who's "week-to-week" designation is NHL injury speak for not great news. Playoffs start in less than 4 weeks
- Carl Hagelin- has been out since 3/10, officially out 4-6 weeks with what is believed to something broken in the foot/ankle. Unknown if he will be available for Game 1 of the playoffs but his regular season almost certainly is over
- Trevor Daley, who underwent knee surgery on 2/22 and has been placed on long-term injury reserve. Due to salary cap complications, the Penguins will not be able to take Daley off LTIR and put him back on the roster until the regular season ends. It remains unknown even if Daley would be healthy and game-ready for Game 1, but his estimate of a six week recovery at time of injury places him close to the start of the playoffs.
The following players skated before practice:
- Kris Letang(upper body) out since 2/21, "upper body injury", unknown time table for return. Today marked first time back on the ice in weeks. GM Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan sounded somewhat upbeat in their vague updates on Letang yesterday, but it remains unclear when he will be back. He skated today lightly and just in a warmup suit, he's nowhere close to a return it appears.
- Olli Maatta surgery for broken hand on 2/16. As you can tell in the video below he doesn't do much with his left hand on the stick, was said to be out 6 weeks from surgery, putting his return sometime in early April. Seems like he should be ready right around the start of the playoffs.
- Bryan Rust- undisclosed injury on 2/9, believed to be a hand/wrist/arm injury. Has had a couple of skating sessions, no known time for a return to the game, the Pens were sending some messages of worry that he might not be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs. He's in full pads though so maybe there's enough time to heal and keep working up for it? Stay tuned.
Then you've got some lingering issues of possible less seriousness:
- Malkin, out tonight, unknown. Has had some wrist taping happening a lot recently. Sullivan mentioned he's been dealing with this a while but it would be impossible to know from his play with 6 goals and 3 assists in the last 7 games. Hopefully this is something minor or nagging enough to miss a limited amount of time, but with the way this season is going, who the hell knows, right?
- Scott Wilsondidn't skate this morning due to "maintenance" (NHL injury speak for a minor injury) but is expected to play tonight per Sullivan
- Tom Sestito - is no longer suspended and available to play if needed. Yay?
In somewhat better news:
- Patric Hornqvist (out since a concussion on 3/5) worked with the first power play at today's skate. He's officially a game-time decision but declared himself pretty much in for tonight's game
- Mark Streit seems to be more or less OK after going to the hospital earlier in the week during a game. He played last game against Philly and is expected to play again tonight
- Matt Cullen returned from the injured list last game and is seemingly over his lower-body injury
That's 11 regular players either injured or hurting at the moment, and at a really bad time of year for that. Pittsburgh is 3 points behind Washington for 1st place in the division and league, with the Pens also holding a game-in-hand. Passing the Caps, earning home ice in the playoffs and avoiding the 2/3 playoff matchup (while forcing Washington TO play that series) could be a major key to the post-season.
The schedule doesn't get any lighter with six games in the next ten days ahead for the Pens. If there's any consolation, all six teams to play are outside of the playoffs right now (though NYI is right there fighting to get in) so at least the schedule while hectic, isn't exactly a murderer's row of top competition.
However, at this point, Pittsburgh's decimated lineup just has to find a way to stick together and make it through a game or two unscathed and without adding any names to the list.
Injury to Sidney Crosby the Penguins' biggest challenge yet
Craig CustanceESPN Senior WriterClose
- Senior NHL writer for ESPN The Magazine
- Wrote for Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- Wrote for The Sporting News
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PITTSBURGH -- One of the biggest mandates from Mike Sullivan when he took over as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins last season was to dial down the emotional swings that often distracted the team. Opponents could get in their head. The opponents knew it and, probably, deep down the Penguins knew it too.
Sullivan's message was simple: Just play. Don't worry about the rest.
The Penguins, in his mind, were more talented than any team around. If they removed all the distractions, if they just unshackled themselves from the baggage that came with being the star-studded Penguins, they might have a chance to be special.
Along the way, they became more clinical, certainly more workmanlike. Nowhere do you see that more than in their response to injuries.
Star defenseman Kris Letang goes down? No problem -- they'll just spread out the minutes evenly among the rest of the defensemen. No matter that Letang was the heart and soul of the Stanley Cup run last spring, or that Sullivan relied on him for half an hour each game in a way that made him seem irreplaceable. Is it harder without him? Absolutely. Irreplaceable? Not so far.
Then came Matt Murray's lower-body injury, aggravated during warmups before the first game of the playoffs. They don't win a Stanley Cup without him in goal last year. Marc-Andre Fleury's outstanding play has made him almost an afterthought.
But the biggest test of them all comes next.
Clipped by Alex Ovechkin's stick, then leveled by Matt Niskanen, captain Sidney Crosby went down in the first period of Game 3 against the Washington Capitals here Monday and never returned. Sullivan offered no update after the game, a 3-2 overtime win by the Capitals that trimmed Pittsburgh's lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal series to 2-1, only to say he would be evaluated overnight and they'll go from there.
Sullivan wouldn't even offer a lower-body or upper-body diagnosis, which would narrow down the injury options considerably, and even possibly rule out another concussion.
He'd only say that he expects the Penguins to survive it. Even this, the injury to their best player and captain. If they do, if they get by the Capitals without Crosby, there might be nothing that stops Pittsburgh.
"This group has so much character and talent that we're able to endure the injuries," Sullivan said. "We did it again tonight. We'll continue to do it. I think these guys are just great character guys. They never look for an excuse."
The answer was level-headed. Even if you could detect a bit of anger buried just below the surface, it was all controlled.
Watching Crosby lying facedown on the ice, in clear pain following the hit, brought a mix of stunned silence and boos from the Penguins crowd. It's a scene the hockey world doesn't want to see again from the future Hall of Famer, who has raised the NHL to new heights since entering the league while battling through concussions.
The Penguins' emotions manifested themselves in their physical play, sometimes after the whistle -- moments that they've mostly removed from their game under Sullivan.
But following it, those emotions were gone. To a player, the Penguins said it was hard to see their captain go down, they hope it's not too serious, but they have to move forward if it is. Anyone looking for a postgame cloud weighing down the Penguins dressing room didn't get it.
This team has fully embraced the notion that you control what you control and shove aside the rest. Even if the rest might be concerns over the captain.
"We're fortunate. We have guys down the middle who can play," Penguins winger Chris Kunitz said. "We have guys out of the lineup that want to be in. It's just one of those things. Next guy up."
Next guy up. Even if he's nowhere close to Crosby.
The end of regulation in Game 3 provided a glimpse of what life without Crosby has to look like if the Penguins are going to have any success moving forward. Evgeni Malkin scored a goal, assisted on another and was engaged in a way that suggested he's ready to carry this team if need be. We've seen him do it so often in Crosby's absence.
This might be his shot to carry the baton. It was a luxury to have Fleury waiting when Murray went down. It might be an even bigger luxury to have another future Hall of Fame center in Malkin ready to raise his game without Crosby.
That depth of stars is what has made the Penguins so hard to beat. It's also why they think they can survive without all of them.
"It's never easy to see a teammate go down, definitely Sid. He's a leader in this group," said defenseman Olli Maatta. "We've been dealing with these all season, last season. Guys going down. We always have guys who step up."
It may be one of the strangest rituals in hockey: in the solemn interviews that cap an abruptly-ended season, fans watch the grand reveal of what exactly all those “upper-body” and “lower-body” injuries really were.
The later the postseason exit, the more shocking the injuries. After the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2017, the team revealed that Nick Bonino had tried to play through a broken shinbone, while Ian Cole dealt with a broken hand and broken ribs through two rounds.
But these past few years, a series of early departures have led to some anti-climatic exit interviews.
Last season, when the Penguins were bounced in the qualifying round by the Montreal Canadiens, exit interviews didn’t focus on injuries— in fact, the chronically hurt 2019-20 squad had mostly recovered for the postseason thanks to the delayed start to the playoffs.
But in 2020-21, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan revealed the specifics of two players’ injuries during postseason interviews. Neither, of course, will be surprising for any fan that watched this short playoff run.
Groin injuries are one of the most common issues experienced by hockey goaltenders. After watching former Penguins goaltender Matt Murray struggle through a host of injury issues (which unfortunately have continued since his trade to Ottawa), it’s difficult— both from a health and a hockey standpoint— to see another Pittsburgh netminder sidelined with health problems.
Malkin racked up five points (1-4—5) in four games against the Islanders, but that’s more a testament to his skill than to his health. It was clear in his labored stride that the star center was “not 100%”.
Unfortunately for a team whose greatest strength is its two star centers, Malkin has a history of being sidelined due to injury. As of April 28, he had missed 150 games since the 2013 season. As the Pittsburgh core ages and recovery times stretch longer, those frequent ailments become even more concerning. (Malkin turns 35 this July.)
The injury details handed out by Sullivan remain vague, and no timelines for recovery have been publicly offered by the team. The most important aspect of these injuries is, as always, the players’ health for its own sake. But in hockey terms, it will be interesting to keep an eye on what the recovery timelines for these two ailments might be— after all, they could help determine what moves the Penguins will need to make this offseason.
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2017 penguins injury update
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