Sidney Crosby

Are teams taking it easy on Sidney Crosby?

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Sidney Crosby’s second comeback is now three games old and, for the most part, it’s gone well — he’s registered five assists, averaged just over 16 minutes of ice time and the Penguins have gone 2-0-1.

This got Bruce Arthur from the National Post thinking: Why is it going so well?

Aside from the obvious stuff like “Crosby’s a great player” and “Pittsburgh’s a great team”, there’s another explanation worth considering — that No. 87’s peers might be treating him with deference.

More, from the Post:

So far nobody has approached the line with the game’s signature player. Philadelphia snapped Pittsburgh’s 11-game win streak Sunday in a typically snarl-filled game, but Crosby was not among those bloodied, or even significantly bumped. During a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday, Crosby was jostled and shoved when the opportunity arose, and as he put it, “Were they trying to do anything extra? No. But I don’t think they passed up on much.”

In a 5-2 romp over the New Jersey Devils Saturday, Pittsburgh outshot New Jersey 44-14, and Crosby flew around and was robbed of perhaps three goals, and Devils star Patrick Elias criticized his team for being too passive.

“We were hesitant,” he told reporters. “Instead of going after them, we were kind of looking around … They’re just hockey players. They’re good hockey players, but they’re just hockey players like us. We just have to play and not think about other things too much, like who we’re playing against. When we do that, we’re okay, we’re a good team.”

Arthur then brings up another intriguing point: Crosby’s teammate, Kris Letang — who missed 26 games this year with a concussion of his own — has been physically engaged since returning to the lineup (and in some instances, more than usual.) He received a big hit from New Jersey’s Eric Boulton, threw a big hit on Jaromir Jagr and got hit the face from Braydon Coburn during a post-whistle scrum.

Remember, both Letang and Crosby returned from their respective concussions at the same time.

It was Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky who, prior to Crosby’s comeback game last Thursday, offered up the “we don’t think about [Crosby], because we don’t really care about him,” quote. That’s all well and good, but eventually teams will start thinking about Crosby, and caring about Crosby — especially if he’s scoring at a point-per-game clip.

“Sooner or later somebody is going to hit Sidney Crosby like he is Kris Letang,” Arthur writes. “The question, of course, will be what happens then.”

Bolts lose ‘minute-munching defenseman’ Garrison for 3-5 weeks

during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning expect defenseman Jason Garrison to miss 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

Garrison was hurt in Monday’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The 31-year-old played just 4:10 of that game, missing the final two periods.

“That’s a tough one too, because he’s a big minute-munching defenseman for us,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “A big body and size.”

Garrison has just four goals and three assists in 52 games, but he’s third on the Bolts in average ice time (18:23), second in blocked shots (76), and third in hits (69).

Matt Carle replaced Garrison for Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal.

Kadri fined $5K for throat slash gesture at Giordano

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Nazem Kadri‘s “inappropriate gestures” on Tuesday night have left him lighter in the wallet.

On Thursday, the NHL announced that Kadri has been fined $5,000 — the maximum allowable under the CBA — for making a throat slash gesture at Mark Giordano during Calgary’s 4-3 win over the Leafs two nights ago.

The incident occurred after Kadri took exception to a heavy Giordano check. While on the bench, the Leafs forward made the gesture, one the NHL has been cracking down on since 2000.

Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

Report: Detroit interested in Columbus d-man Tyutin

Fedor Tyutin, Ryan White
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From the Columbus Dispatch:

The Red Wings had much brass in the building on Tuesday to watch the Blue Jackets play the Islanders in Nationwide.

GM Ken Holland was there, along with special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, and pro scout Kirk Maltby.

It’s believed the Red Wings were taking a close look at Fedor Tyutin, who is likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Tyutin, 32, has this and two more years remaining on a six-year, $27 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit. One of the longest-tenured players in Columbus franchise history — he’s spent eight years with the Jackets, and played in both of the teams’ playoff appearances — Tyutin has fallen on hard times this year, and has been made a healthy scratch on a few occasions by head coach John Tortorella.

Unsurprisingly, Tyutin’s numbers are way down. He’s goalless with just two points through 43 games, and is averaging just 17:47 TOI per night — the lowest total of his career.

It’s not surprising Detroit’s kicking the tires on Tyutin. D-men Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green are both out of the lineup with knee and groin injuries and, last night versus Ottawa, Danny DeKeyser took a Dion Phaneuf shot to the knee.

 

All eyes on Schwartz ahead of return to sputtering Blues lineup

Jaden Schwartz
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The St. Louis Blues have not played particularly well since around Christmas.

It’s a story that hasn’t received much attention league-wide, because the Blues’ goaltending has been good enough to cover up a lot of their problems. Brian Elliott had a .937 save percentage in January. He’s up to .958 in February.

But there’s a reason the return of Jaden Schwartz, likely Friday in Florida, has the Blues players so excited.

“He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy to our lineup,” captain David Backes told the Post-Dispatch. “He’s a relentless forechecker who hounds the puck and that’s exactly what we could use right now.”

Backes has clearly been listening to head coach Ken Hitchcock, who’s been growing increasingly frustrated at his team’s inability to play in the opposition’s end. In their past five games, the Blues have managed shot totals of 25, 23, 27, 24, and 22, which isn’t very many at all.

“We’ve needed the power play the last two games, thank God, but we just don’t, we don’t compete when we get checked in the scoring areas near as hard as we have to,” Hitchcock told reporters.

Once Schwartz gets back up to speed, he should help. Last year, he finished second on the team in goals (28) and fourth in shots (184).

But he won’t solve everything, particularly with Alex Pietrangelo sidelined now.

In their 20 games since Christmas, the Blues are in the bottom 10 in score-adjusted Corsi (a measure of puck possession), and that isn’t like them at all.

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made