Sidney Crosby will miss Game 4 of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ series against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
That’s the terrible news. The good news, such as it is, would be that if there’s one team in the NHL that is mentally prepared to handle significant losses in their lineup, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are up 2-1 in the second round despite not having their top defenseman, their starting goaltender and now their top center.
“Yeah, I think we’ve had this before. We seem to get some injuries once in a while and we keep going,” said Phil Kessel.
So how will the Penguins compensate for the loss of not only Crosby but forward Conor Sheary, also out with a concussion, in a critical game in this series?
“Every possibility is on the table in this type of a circumstance,” said coach Mike Sullivan.
In the third period and overtime of their Game 3 loss, Crosby’s linemate Jake Guentzel played with center Nick Bonino and winger Bryan Rust. There was speculation on Wednesday morning that Guentzel could see time at center for the Penguins in Game 4, having played the position in the past.
“He’s not stuck anywhere. It’s a possibility and an option,” said Sullivan.
Evgeni Malkin, leading the NHL in postseason scoring with 15 points, skated with Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz in Game 3.
Sullivan declined to share his lineup after an optional practice on Wednesday. But he did clarify his game plan: Just because the team is missing Sidney Crosby doesn’t mean it’s going to dramatically change its offensive approach, like getting his defensemen more involved in the play.
“I don’t think we’re going to change our game plan because someone is in or out of our lineup. We’re going to play the type of game that plays to our strengths and gives us the best chance to win,” he said. “We’re just going to go out and we’re going to try and be committed and make sure we have a readiness to us and we’re focused on playing the game the right way. And when we do that, regardless of who’s in our lineup, I believe this group of players has a chance to win any game against any opponent.”
That focus includes getting over two more significant lineup losses, which the Penguins are adept at doing.
“We seemingly have a lot of young guys on this team, but I think they are all very mature and very professional in a sense that when there is a vacancy when someone does go down because of injuries, we have had numerous guys step up and fill those voids,” said defenseman Ian Cole, via the Penguins website.
“Last year, this year, during the regular season and hopefully come playoff time, we can do the same thing. There are huge voids on this team. The ability for us to step up and try to fill those by committee is key. We have done a good job with that, so hopefully we continue to do that.”
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