With their superstar expected to miss a fourth straight game, the Penguins must find other sources of offense as they look to snap a three-game losing streak Wednesday night against the surging Montreal Canadiens.
Crosby apparently was initially injured by Washington’s Dave Steckel(notes) during the Penguins’ loss in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Two nights later, Crosby had an assist - his league-leading 66th point - in an 8-1 rout of Tampa Bay, but was driven headfirst into the boards by Victor Hedman(notes) and hasn’t played since.
He missed a shootout loss Thursday in Montreal, a shutout defeat at home to Minnesota on Saturday and Monday’s 4-2 loss to Boston in which Pittsburgh (26-14-4) surrendered four straight goals in the final 3:23.
Pittsburgh has been outscored 10-3 during its losing streak. Crosby has 32 of the Penguins’ 135 goals, nearly 24 percent of the team’s total.
Though his team is struggling, coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins’ official website after practice Tuesday that Crosby will remain out until medically cleared.
“I know how Sidney did (Monday), but I haven’t seen him today so I don’t know,” Bylsma said. “He will not be participating until he is symptom-free, and at that time he will be tested again.”
Success on faceoffs has also proved to be difficult without Crosby, who still leads the NHL by winning 546 draws. Pittsburgh has won only 74 of 162 faceoffs without its captain.
The slide has dropped the Penguins three points behind Philadelphia for the best record in the Eastern Conference. They’ll look to avoid their first four-game skid since dropping five in a row Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.
The Canadiens (24-16-3) return to the Bell Centre after winning their third straight, 2-1 over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Benoit Pouliot(notes) snapped a 1-all tie in the third period and Alex Auld(notes) made 25 saves against his former team.
“We did a good job of sticking with our game plan,” said Auld, who appeared in three games with New York last season. “We stayed with it and kept coming.”
Though Auld ended the Rangers’ three-game winning streak, Carey Price(notes) will be back in net for Montreal. Price, who is headed to the All-Star game later this month in North Carolina, needs one win to tie Detroit’s Jimmy Howard(notes) for the league lead with 22.
“He’s a very solid goaltender. He doesn’t do anything crazy in there,” Staal said. “… Just like any other goaltender, you’ve just got to get in front of him and get as many shots as you can.”
Price is 2-0-0 with a 1.44 goals-against average versus Pittsburgh this season.
The Canadiens may still be without Mike Cammalleri, who missed Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed illness after playing just over seven minutes against Boston on Saturday. Cammalleri has a team-high five power-play goals and is second on the club with 28 points.
He scored seven goals in Montreal’s seven-game victory over Pittsburgh in last season’s East semifinal series and two more in a 3-2 win over the Penguins on Oct. 9.