Crosby is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday night despite a foot injury when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Montreal Canadiens.
No one is more essential to his team’s success than Crosby, who in just two seasons has established himself as the NHL’s top player. The 20-year-old center became the youngest winner of the Hart Trophy as MVP last season after leading the league with 120 points.
The Penguins (1-1-0) received a scare Saturday in the first period of their 5-4 victory over Anaheim, as Crosby was struck on the side of his right foot by a shot from Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Crosby was bent over for several minutes on the bench but returned not long after.
He missed practice Monday with a bruised foot, but is expected to play Wednesday after X-rays revealed no break. Crosby played the final weeks of last season and the playoffs with a stress fracture in his left foot.
“The swelling has gone down and I felt pretty good,” said Crosby, who does not plan to wear any protective padding in his skate.
Held without a point in Pittsburgh’s season-opening 4-1 loss to Carolina, Crosby had one assist in the win over the Ducks.
“Everyone was motivated to play these guys,” Crosby said. “They’re the champions, and we were all up for this game, playing Anaheim and it’s the home opener.”
Crosby has five goals and nine assists in eight games against Montreal, helping the Penguins to a 5-2-1 record.
“I couldn’t ask for a better start at home,” said new Penguin Sykora, who has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last eight seasons.
One area of concern for the Penguins has been the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a 4.81 goals-against average in two games. Fleury was pulled after two periods against Carolina and stopped only 19 of 23 shots versus Anaheim.
Montreal (1-0-1) plays its third straight road game after gaining three of a possible four points in the first two. The Canadiens, though, were unable to protect a third-period lead and lost 4-3 in overtime at Toronto on Saturday.
Mathieu Dandenault, Andrei Markov and Andrei Kostitsyn scored for Montreal, which was held scoreless on six power-play opportunities after converting three times in a season-opening victory over Carolina.
Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet has played well in the first two games this season, and is 3-0-0 with a 1.46 GAA and one shutout lifetime against Pittsburgh.
The other less likely option for Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau is to start Huet’s 20-year-old backup Carey Price, who would be making his NHL debut against one of the league’s most potent offensive teams. Price, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft, was 15-6 with a 2.06 GAA while leading Hamilton of the American Hockey League to the Calder Cup championship last season.