Teammate Brooks Orpik blasted a puck off his face, sending him to the hospital. This is not how the Penguins wanted to celebrate the arrival of Jarome Iginla.
Teammate Brooks Orpik blasted a puck off his face, sending him to the hospital. This is not how the Penguins wanted to celebrate the arrival of Jarome Iginla.
The streaking Pittsburgh Penguins loaded up by trading for power forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow before the NHL trade deadline. They also added physical defenseman Douglas Murray.
But that additional firepower could be offset by the loss of offensive defenseman Paul Martin to an unspecified broken upper body bone. He will miss the rest of the regular season and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs as well.
With offensive defenseman Kris Letang (upper body injury) also on injured reserve, the Penguins are scrambling to assemble three viable pairings. Martin and Letang are quarterbacks on the mighty Pittsburgh power play and key players at even strength.
Letang could return within a week or two.
For now, coach Dan Bylsma is going with Matt Niskanen on the top pairing with workhorse Brooks Orpik. Mark Eaton is teaming with Murray and Deryk Engelland is playing with rookie Simon Despres.
“That will kind of be the way it looks," Bylsma told Pittsburgh reporters. “But also . . . there will be some rotating in terms of responsibilities over the next three, four, five games.”
Boston Bruins fans went to bed believing their team had acquired power forward Jarome Iginla for defenseman prospect Matt Bartkowski, forward Alexander Kokhlachev and a conditional first-round pick.
Then they woke up to learn that Iginla went to the Pittsburgh Penguins instead, in a less-attractive deal for fringe prospects Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski, and Pittsburgh’s first-round draft pick.
So what happened? Iginla had no-trade protection and Iginla wanted to play with Sid the Kid.
“He said he was excited to come to Pittsburgh,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero told reporters in a conference call. “He said he would help anyway he could, didn’t care about role or who he was playing with. He wants to help the team win and be a part of it. It was a big change after 16 years in Calgary so I’m sure it will be quite emotional.”
Moving forward, Iginla could join Sidney Crosby on the top line with Pascal Dupuis. Coach Dan Bylsma could move Chris Kunitz back with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal and create an equally strong scoring line there. And newcomer Brenden Morrow could play with Brandon Sutter on a very good third line.
“We have a month sort through the emotions, find some roles for guys, players accepting of those and playing good hockey,” Shero said. “The team on paper doesn’t mean too much. We have to do it on the ice. Chemistry for a hockey team is very important.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the bidding for Dallas Stars mainstay Brenden Morrow. The Boston Bruins made a late pitch, too, but Morrow waived his no-trade clause in order to join Sidney Crosby and Co.
The rugged power forward adds toughness and skill to the already powerful Penguins. The Penguins acquired Morrow and a 3rd-round pick 2013 in exchange for prospect Joe Morrow and a 5th-round pick 2013.
The Stars stayed on the “sale/no sale” bubble for a while now. By moving Morrow, a franchise fixture, general manager Joe Nieuwendyk conceded that getting even older may not have been the route to travel.
The addition of twilight-year veterans Jaromir Jagr, Erik Cole, Ray Whitney yielded mixed results. The lack of a steady back-up goaltender proved costly. The revolving door in the third defensive pairing has been helpful.
For a host of reasons, the Stars haven’t been able to maintain a home-ice advantage this season. “You look at the whole and realize we’re at home and we have to win a bunch of these,” center Derek Roy told the Dallas Morning News after his team’s 5-2 victory over Colorado. “We’re at home, there’s no excuse, no travel,’’ he said of the team’s five-game homestand.”
The franchise’s financial instability has hung over the hockey operation ominously, making it more difficult to make long-term moves.
Pittsburgh presumably bowed out of the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes by making this deal, so it will be interesting to see how this impacts the price the Calgary Flames get for him in a trade.
The condensed post-lockout NHL schedule will force teams to rely more heavily on their second goaltender. Back-to-back games will be commonplace as the league wedges 48 games in before the postseason begins.
So newcomer Tomas Vokoun should play a vital role for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Starting Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury collapsed during the playoffs last season and the team wants to keep him fresh this season.
Enter Vokoun, a long-time starter with 48 NHL shutouts to his credit. He signed as a free agent to fill the back-up role on a Stanley Cup contender.
Vokoun did stellar work in Nashville and Florida before his unhappy stint in Washington, which was marred by a groin muscle injury.
“Whatever chances I‘m going to get to play, that is probably totally up to me and how I play and how confident they feel in me,” Vokoun, 32, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “My decision (to sign with the Penguins) was based on I don‘t have that many more years to play and I want to be in a winning atmosphere and part of success.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said there is no goaltending controversy in Pittsburgh.
“Marc is our No. 1. He will be in there for the first game,” Bylsma said. “But it‘s fair to say he needs more support than he got last year, and we like what Tomas gives us there.”
Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings should be the three top rookie defensemen in the NHL these season.
Each could play big roles this season and each could earn Calder consideration. We covered their potential earlier in our list of 10 emerging offensive defensemen.
Here are 10 more rookie defensemen to keep an eye on:
Joe Morrow, Pittsburgh Penguins: His impressive training camp almost earned him an early shot at the NHL last fall. Instead he returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League and scored 64 points in 62 regular season games. If the Penguins hold training camp this season (a big “if” given the ongoing labor dispute), Morrow will try it again.
“I'm going to come in with the same expectations, the same determination I had last year,” Morrow told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I was on top of the world, getting treated well, and everything fell into place. I'm going to come in with the same kind of confidence I had. Being my second year rather than something brand new, I can play with a chip on my shoulder. I'm going to shoot for the stars, listen to everybody's advice, see how far I can take this. Do everything I can to stay as long as I can.”
Tim Erixon, Columbus Blue Jackets: He was a key piece of the Rick Nash trade with the New York Rangers. He scored two points in his first 18 NHL games last season, but he produced 33 points in 52 games for Connecticut of the American Hockey League. He scored 24 points in 48 games in his final Swedish Elite League season for Skelleftea HC. He is ready to make the jump.
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators: He joins the cast of talented young D-men looking to fill at least part of the Ryan Suter void. His first NHL trial last just two games, but he made the most of his return to the SEL last season. He earned the Borje Salming Award winner as the league’s top defenseman after producing nine goals and eight assists in 41 games for Brynas IF Gavle.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins: Once he makes it in Beantown, he will quickly graduate into a power play role. Last season he scored 17 goals and added 55 assists for Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League. He was plus-72 in his last two seasons in junior hockey.
Paul Postma, Winnipeg Jets: After three strong seasons in the AHL, he could move into a starting role this season with Zach Bogosian shelved by wrist surgery. He scored 40 goals in 188 games for Chicago and St. John’s, but played just four NHL games in the past two seasons.
Griffin Reinhart, New York Islanders: The fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft has the size (6-foot-4, 204 pounds), skill and bloodlines to advance quickly. The son of former NHL standout Paul Reinhart scored 12 goals, earned 24 assists and posted a plus-23 rating in 58 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL this past season.
Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche: The son of former NHL player (and former part-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning) Len Barrie has progressed nicely. In four seasons with Kelowna of the WHL he scored 51 goals and earned 177 assists in 256 games. He produced five goals and 27 assists for Lake Erie of the American Hockey League last season and got in 10 NHL games for Colorado. He could give the Avalanche another badly needed puck mover.
Brandon Gormley, Phoenix Coyotes: Knee and foot injuries have slowed his development, but the 13th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft is still regarded as a blue-chip prospect. He scored 80 points in his last 82 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He also played four games for San Antonio of the AHL two years ago.
Ryan Murphy, Carolina Hurricanes: The 12th overall pick of the 2011 draft posted big numbers (134 points in his last 112 regular season games) at Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League and overcame a nasty concussion last season. His end-to-end offensive skills should eventually translate into a Joe Corvo-like role in the NHL.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs: Will general manager Brian Burke take a serious look at the fifth overall pick of the 2012 this fall? Rielly missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL and undergoing knee surgery. He did score 18 points in 18 WHL games for Moose Jaw.
An army of young puck-rushing defensemen energized the NHL during the past few seasons, led by Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson.
He broke into the NHL with 26 points in 60 games back in 2009-10, then surged to 45 and 78 points the last two seasons. His shots on goal jumped from 182 to 261. He made historic improvements on the plus-minus front, too, improving from minus-30 to plus-16 last season.
All that earned him a seven-year contract that reaffirmed his standing as one of the game’s elite young stars.
“It's going to be higher expectations from everyone,” Karlsson told reporters at the NHL Awards ceremony. “That's the way it is. It's something that comes with this work, something that I know about. It's not something that's kind of snuck up on me. I know how it works. I'm going to try to play my best every night.
“It's all I can do. I'm not happy with where I am today. I'm still trying to be a better hockey player. I'm becoming a better person, as well. I know Ottawa has all the capacity to help me be that guy. It's going to be an exciting thing and something to look forward to.”
Earlier we looked at 10 NHL defensemen just hitting their prime and 10 emerging NHL offensive defensemen.
Here are the NHL’s other young cornerstone defensemen:
Alex Pietrangelo, Blues: He developed into a elite defenseman in all facets of the game – power play, penalty killing and defending against top lines. He boosted his offense from 43 to 51 points last season while earning a plus-16 rating in 24 minutes, 43 seconds of playing time per game. He earned 24 power play points. He and Zdeno Chara were the only top five scoring defensemen who also killed penalties.
Kris Letang, Penguins: He has developed into one of the NHL’s elite offensive defensemen, as evidenced by his 10 goals and 32 assists in just 51 games last season. He has 92 points and a plus-36 rating during his last two seasons in Pittsburgh. His only real negative is durability; he has suited up for more than 74 games only once in his five-year NHL career.
P.K. Subban, Canadiens: After scoring 74 points (including 32 on the power play) in his first two full NHL seasons, he could really take off if the Canadiens get their offensive act together. Subban was a big point producer at Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League (76 points in 56 games) and Hamilton of the American Hockey League (53 points in 77 games.) He made defensive strides in Montreal last season, improving his plus-minus rating last season from minus-8 to plus-9. He finished well, scoring 12 points in his last 18 games last season.
Michael Del Zotto, Rangers: After splitting the previous season between Hartford and New Yorkd during his classic sophomore slump, Del Zotto broke out last season with 41 points. He showed his full potential last December, scoring 14 points with a plus-17 rating during 15 games. Overall he finished plus-20 after finishing minus-25 during his first two NHL seasons. He could take another step still with the addition of Rick Nash to the Rangers power play.
Tyler Myers, Sabres: A hand injury and Buffalo’s general malaise caused him to suffer serious statistical regression. But Myers scored 85 points during his first two NHL seasons and has the ability to score 45 to 50 points while adding a physical presence to the blue line. He finished well last season, earning a plus-14 rating during his last two months.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues: Moving from Colorado to St. Louis allowed him to full develop his offensive game and become one of the league’s better power-play operators. In 107 games for the Blues, he has 60 points and a plus-27 rating. He finished well last season, scoring 20 points in 33 games after the All-Star break. If St. Louis can stay healthier this season and enjoy more offensive continuity, Shattenkirk could post career numbers.
Drew Doughty, Kings: He pulled out of a baffling funk and helped Los Angeles roll to the Stanley Cup last spring. His scoring declined from 59 to 40 to 36 points overall the last three seasons, but Doughty finished fast with nine points in 15 March games. He can play a robust game and help in all game situations when he is one top of his game.
Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets: He is a go-go offensive defenseman that Columbus plans to build around. After arriving from Los Angeles in the Jeff Carter deal, Johnson excelled in 21 games. He scored 14 points with a plus-five rating, 35 hits, 45 blocked shots and 56 shots on goal. In 143 games with the Kings, he had a minus-33 rating.
Zach Bogosian, Jets: Winnipeg will miss him during the next few months as he recovers from surgery to repair a “chronic tear” of a wrist ligament. He is a forceful defender with big offensive potential. Last season he scored five goals and added 25 assists in 65 games, a big increase from 17 points in 71 games the season before. He improved his plus-minus rating from minus-27 to minus-3. He finished well, scoring nine points in his last 12 games.
The Philadelphia Flyers did not got the expected return on that nine-year, $51 million contract lavished on goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov last year.
He ran hot and cold all season. Which goaltender will Philly get this season? Will it get the guy who allowed 18 goals during a four-game span in October?
Or will it see more of the Bryzgalov who went 10-2-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and four shutouts in March.
He produced a shutout stretch of 249 minutes and 43 seconds that month. On the other hand, his playoffs took an unfortunate turn. He posted a 5-6 record with a 3.46 GAA and .887 save percentage.
His bottom line was unimpressive: 33 victories, 10th most in the NHL, rankings of 21st in GAA (2.48) and 33rd in save percentage (.909). The Flyers are counting on a much better showing this season.
Flyers star Claude Giroux believes Bryzgalov should be much more prepared for all the hockey fanfare in the City of Brotherly Love. “Obviously next year he's gonna know what to expect and if I had to predict anything he's gonna be the best goalie in the league next year,” Giroux told a Philadelphia radio station. “I'm pretty sure that's what's gonna happen.”
Bryzgalov is just one NHL goaltender on the spot this year. Here are some others:
Roberto Luongo, Canucks: He was OK during the regular season, posting decent numbers (31-14-8, 2.41 GAA and .919 save percentage). But Corey Schneider supplanted him as the No. 1 goaltender during last spring’s playoffs. He is ready to take change this season, too. Schneider’s time has come. Trouble is, Luongo, 33, and the remainder of his 12-year, $64 million remain in place. Efforts to trade him at the NHL Draft failed. Toronto could use a marquee goaltender Luongo would accept a move to Florida, but thus far no team has been willing to meet Vancouver’s asking price. If this uncertainly drags into the regular season, will Luongo remained focused?
Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins: Many experts favored Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup last spring. Then the Penguins lost a crazy first-round series to the Flyers. Fleury took plenty of the blame with his stunningly bad performance (4.63 GAA in six games). That breakdown led to the arrival of Tomas Vokoun to back-up Fleury and potentially press him for playing time. Another offseason factor was the departure of outstanding defensive defenseman Zbynek Michalek. But . . . Fleury won a career-high 42 games last season while posting a 2.36 GAA. The Penguins believe he will be fine with additional rest during the season, but Vokoun is more than capable of taking over as the No. 1 man if necessary.
Ryan Miller, Sabres: Bruins power forward Milan Lucic knocked him off his game with his “accidental” bump last season. Miller lost time to a concussion and didn’t look like his old self in December (.893 save percentage) and January (.901). Finally he hit stride in his last 22 games, posting a 15-4-3 record and moving his season ratios (2.54 and .916) back in line with his career norms. He was especially good in February with a .938 save percentage and a 1.85 GAA. The big-spending Sabres are looking to climb back into Stanley Cup contention this season and Miller is the key figure in that quest.
Anders Lindback, Lightning: Tampa Bay has more than enough firepower to contend for the Stanley Cup. But its goaltending blew up last season, with old-timer Dwayne Roloson finally hitting the wall and Mathieu Garon and Dustin Tokarski failing to pick up the pieces. Enter Lindback, the rangy and promising netminder stuck behind Pekka Rinne in Nashville. The Lightning are betting that he can become The Answer. But it is difficult to assess Lindback based on his small (16 games) sample that produced a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage for the Predators last season. He has played in just 38 NHL games overall, producing so-so ratios (2.53/.914.)
Tuukka Rask, Bruins: With “Free Citizen” Tim Thomas taking a year off from hockey, Rask graduates into the starting role after his lengthy apprenticeship. Great things are expected, given his 2.20 GAA, a .926 save percentage and 11 shutouts in 102 NHL games. But last season he posted a middling 54.5 percent Quality Start percentage, reminding us that back-ups don’t always settle into a consistently high level of performance upon graduation to regular work.
Devan Dubnyk, Oilers: Edmonton is loaded with explosive offensive talent up front and promising defensemen on the blue line. But the playoffs have remained out of reach for the Young Men of Oil. This team is overdue to break out and much of that responsibility could fall in Dubnyk, a still-developing netminder who has posted mediocre ratios (2.85 GAA and a .910 save percentage) in 101 NHL games. If Dubnyk can finally blossom and replace 900-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin, this franchise could finally take off. He showed signs of taking that step during his final 13 starts last season, posting a 2.04 GAA and .933 save percentage down the stretch.
Corey Crawford, Blackhawks: The former Stanley Cup champions paid the price for erratic goaltending last season. Neither Crawford nor Ray Emery sustained quality play for defensive-minded coach Joel Quenneville. Crawford appeared to be an emerging star two years ago (33-18-6 record, 2.30 GAA, .917 save percentage) but last year his numbers turned ugly (2.72, .903). He allowed three or more goals 27 times in 57 games. Quenneville yanked him from seven starts. Crawford allowed lots of bad-angle goals and he appeared tentative while attempting to stop breakaway. Blackhawks management have expressed public support for Crawford, but experts wonder if Stan Bowman could yet make a move to fortify his team in goal.
Niklas Backstrom, Wild: After committing about $200 million to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota needs its goaltender to regain the form that allowed him to post 2.32 GAA and .922 save percentage from 2007 to 2009. Staying and consistent proved problematic for him last season. He had three good months, October (3-3-2, 2.30 and .912.), November (6-2-0, 1.82 and .948.) and February (4-5-2 2.36 and .920.) The team can’t afford such intermittent success this season.
Jonas Hiller, Ducks: He suffered as the team suffered early last season. His numbers for November (2-6-3, 3.54 GAA, .895 save percentage) and December (3-6-2, 3.31, .896) were way off his career norms. Overall he led the NHL losses and finished tied for the second-most goals allowed. On the other hand he started 73 games and proved his earlier health problems were behind him. Now the Ducks are hoping that Hiller and the rest of their cornerstone players can start well and set aside last season’s fiasco.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal has never scored more than 50 points in a NHL season. And yet speculation that he could hit the trade block this week has several teams showing great interest.
Staal could some day become a 40-goal scoring center like his brother Eric Staal. Jordan assumed a bigger offensive role this season during Sidney Crosby’s long-term absence, scoring 25 goals in 62 games.
He has the size and skill set to become a strong No. 1 center. He is a terrific two-way center and a great penalty killer.
Teams lacking such a cornerstone player – such as Toronto – figure to explore this option. Carolina has a top center in the elder Staal, but the Hurricanes are looking to add firepower and might favor a family reunion.
(Let’s not forget that the Hurricanes acquired minor league winger Jared Staal from the Phoenix Coyotes earlier this year. This could turn into quite the get-together. )
Here are the reasons the Penguins may entertain offers for Staal:
Jordan Staal can dictate what, if anything, happens this summer. Any team acquiring him will want to lock him into a long-term contract extension.
If that can’t be arranged ahead of time, why would a team offer Pittsburgh a premium package for a player with one year left on his deal?
The Staal camp knows the UFA bidding could get crazy. Jordan won’t commit to a new deal unless the money, market and playing opportunity suited him.
That leads us back to speculation about Toronto (where he could become The Show in a hockey-crazed market) and Carolina.
If Pittsburgh can't engineer a Staal trade this summer, then the team could be forced to deal his UFA rights for a modest draft pick next summer. The Penguins may accept that scenario if they believe Jordan gives them the best shot to win it all next season.
But after their postseason failure, isn't major change in order?
Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby is sick of sitting around. Now that he has medical clearance to absorb contact, he expects to return to action after just a few more practices.
“The only way you can adapt to that is to be in games,” Crosby told Pittsburgh reporters. “You can do as much practicing as you want. I've pushed myself as hard as I can practice-wise. The contact is the big step and making sure I get through that symptom free. Once I can do that for a few days, I'm just going to jump into games. The best way to kind of get used to that stuff is to be in games — the sooner the better.”
How much sooner?
“I'm going to give myself days, for sure, of contact,” Crosby said.”If you look at our schedule, we have two more practices this week. No sooner than Sunday, I would say. But I'm not going to sit here and put a date on it. It would be total guesswork. I just want to make sure I get through these days fine."
With the Evgeni Malkin-James Neal-Chris Kunitz line rocking and rolling, center Jordan Staal could find himself on Crosby’swing, should coach Dan Bylsma decide to consolidate his scoring into two lines. Pascal Dupuis is another candidate to play with Sid the Kid.
“Anytime you have a chance to skate with a great player like that, you'd take it,” Staal told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “No question.”
And . . .
“You don't have the puck as much on the wing, for sure,” Staal said. “But again, there's a lot to be said for playing with a great player.”
Sidney Crosby is just one concussion case leaving NHL experts a bit dizzy as they struggle to forecast the stretch run.
Recovery times for these injuries are almost impossible to predict. The risk of re-injury is high. Many teams with Stanley Cup aspirations will have to deal with these uncertainties during the decision weeks ahead.
So when Sid the Kid resume skating with teammates Monday, was this an exciting development for the Pittsburgh Penguins? Or was this just another tease?
Crosby skated for the first time in more than six weeks. He worked on a line with injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres, who are both on the mend from knee injuries. Crosby’s return to the rink came after he learned about his neck bone fractures that had gone undetected previously.
Those fractures have apparently healed, but he is undergoing independent medical evaluation.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters that Crosby “was pretty excited about being on the ice and back with some of his teammates” and “going at a fair clip” during Monday’s session.
Maybe we’ll see Crosby before the end of this season after all. Or maybe we won't.
Meanwhile, here are some other cases to keep an eye one:
Andy McDonald, W-C, St. Louis Blues: He went through his first practice without the “no-contact” sweater, signaling that his return is becoming imminent. Since this team doesn’t play its first post-break game until Friday, he will get four practices to ramp up his work pace and test his recovery. “No timetable,” McDonald told St. Louis reporters. "This is just kind of the next step to be able to get out there and take some contact in practice and see where I fit in that regard and see how the body reacts from getting bumped around. It's nice to be able to compete for real and get some contact out there.”
Alex Steen, W-C, Blues: He appeared on track to return before the All-Star Game, but he couldn’t quite rid himself of concussion symptoms. Although he was back on the ice with McDonald and his other teammates Monday, he continued to proceed cautiously in his comeback. “There's nothing really to say about it,” he said. “You get off the ice and right now, you just wait and see how it is. I'm not going to diagnose myself every minute of practice or every minute of the day. If I'm doing that, I'm not ready to go. When I'm ready to go, I won't be thinking about it. I'm just going to let it take its time.”
Nathan Horton, W, Boston Bruins: He suffered what the team believed to be a mild concussion Jan. 22 in Philadelphia, but he hasn’t even resumed exercising. That suggests that Boston’s first-line power forward could be sidelined for a while. Given his previous concussion history and his importance to the team, the Bruins will handle his recovery with treat care.
Evander Kane, W, Winnipeg Jets: Coming out of the break, this cornerstone power forward stopped by in Philadelphia to see his teammates before they played the Flyers. But the reunion was brief. He returned to Winnipeg for further evaluation of his concussion. “He’s probably a little ways away because we've got to get him working out, but he's feeling better,” Jets coach Claude Noel told the Winnipeg Free-Press. “We'll see what his assessment is there. I think he still has some areas of symptoms. We haven't got to the stage where he is working out yet and that's probably a little ways away.”
Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals: He did not skate during the All-Star Break, which means he is no closer to returning. The Washington Post noted that the Caps’ top-line center has skated for just five minutes since Jan. 6.
Daniel Briere, C, Philadelphia Flyers: He was back on the ice Monday with teammates in Philadelphia, but he departed before the hitting began. Given all the concussion trouble this team has endured this season – including the loss of defenseman Chris Pronger until next season as the earliest – expect a cautious comeback here.
James van Riemsdyk, W, Flyers: He, too, practiced Monday. But, too, left the ice before the hitting began. Until he is cleared for contact, he can’t really evaluate the latter the stages of his recovery.
Guillaume Latendresse, W, Minnesota Wild: He is back on the ice but not participating in contact drills. He has missed 32 of the team’s last 34 games with concussion symptoms and hasn’t played since Dec. 14. He could return more quickly than teammate Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has been sidelined since Jan. 4 because of post-concussion syndrome.
The Penguins might fall from postseason contention soon. Injury after injury after injury decimated their team during the first half of the season.
Superstar Sidney Crosby is sidelined by post-concussion syndrome, perhaps into next season. Sid The Kid’s camp is angrily denying speculation that he is pondering retirement, but fans are losing hope that he will make a productive return this season.
He came back and played eight games this season before shutting down, again, for an indefinite period.
Top offensive defenseman Kris Letang is still shelved by a concussion, too, although he is edging closer to a return. He resumed skating, but without clearance for contact work.
Winger Jame Neal, a 21-goal scorer this season, will be sidelined several weeks with a broken foot suffered Saturday.
This setback came on the heels of Jordan Staal’s knee injury. The 15-goal scorer could be sidelined for up to six weeks.
Oh the humanity! The Penguins are still in solid shape with a 21-15-4 record, but how many games can they win with so many players missing?
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is tearing up the NHL these days. He scored three goals and added two assists in an 8-3 victory over Buffalo, then added three assists during Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Chicago.
“He's just a dominating player when he wants the puck,” linemate Chris Kunitz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Lately Malkin has wanted the puck a lot. He has scored 25 points in his last 14 games, dating back to Nov. 21.
That outburst has moved him to the top of the league scoring list. It also allowed Pittsburgh to move along while superstar Sidney Crosby deals with his career-threatening post-concussion syndrome.
With Sid the Kid out of the picture, Malkin has regained the form that allowed him to score 219 points during a two-game span.
“I'm not thinking about points,” he told the Post-Gazette. “I'm trying to find my game. ... I'm just finding my level and [trying to] continue to do better every game.”
Sidney Crosby got dinged playing against the Bruins Monday. Given the severity of his previous concussion, the Penguins are going to be ultra-cautious with their superstar.
Crosby returned Nov. 21 after missing 61 games while suffering from post-concussion syndrome.
That is why he will sit out the next two games – despite practicing at full-tilt Wednesday with no apparent trouble. "Uh ohs" echoed through the NHL with this news.
“Sidney took a hard hit during our game against Boston Monday night and wasn't feeling 100 percent,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said in a statement. Crosby subsequently passed neurocognitive tests.
“However,” Shero said, “we all think it's best that he sits out the next two games as a precaution.”
The Penguins will miss him while playing the Flyers and Islanders on the road. Sid the Kid scored 12 points in his first eight games back to good health.
High-scoring defenseman Kris Letang missed three Penguins game with concussion-like symptoms.
Finally the team got around to diagnosing him with a concussion and placed him under the league’s protocol for such injuries. As Pens fans learned with the long-running Sidney Crosby saga, Letang now faces an uncertain immediate future.
So does defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who was also diagnosed with a concussion three games after he suffered his initial injury. The Penguin provided no clues as to the severity of either concussion.
Letang has 19 points in 22 games, putting him in a tie for fourth among the top-scoring defensemen in the NHL this season. Michalek has four points in 14 games this year.
Among the Penguins seeking to pick up their place in their absence: Puck-moving defenseman Paul Martin, who last scored a goal on Dec. 4, 2010.