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Crosby, Sheary pass baseline concussion tests, will be game-time decisions

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The Pittsburgh Penguins could have Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary back in the lineup on Saturday night for Game 5 of their second-round series against the Washington Capitals.

Coach Mike Sullivan announced on Saturday morning that both players passed their baseline concussion tests and will be game-time decisions. Sullivan added that Crosby has “had a number of positive days.”

Both players missed Game 4 of the series — which the Penguins won 3-2 to take a 3-1 series lead — due to concussions. Crosby was injured when he was cross-checked in the head by Matt Niskanen early in the first period of Game 3. Niskanen was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and ejected from the game but received no additional discipline from the NHL.

Sheary was knocked out of the same game following a collision with teammate Patric Hornqvist in the second period.

Both players were full participants in practice on Friday, with Crosby taking his spot on the top-line between Jake Guentzel and Hornqvist.

Sheary skated on the third line alongside Nick Bonino and Bryan Rust.

Crosby has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in eight playoff games, including two goals and two assists in this series.

Crosby has concussion, but Penguins ‘optimistic’ he’ll be back soon

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Sidney Crosby has a concussion. He won’t play tomorrow in Game 4 of the Capitals-Penguins series in Pittsburgh.

“We will evaluate him from there,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said today.

“He’s very upbeat and positive,” Sullivan added. “We’re very optimistic and hopeful we’ll have him back in a timely fashion.”

Crosby was hurt last night when he took a cross-check to side of his head from Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen. An instant earlier, Crosby had taken an Alex Ovechkin stick to the back of his head.

Ovechkin was not penalized, but Niskanen received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Crosby stayed down for a while and had to be helped off the ice. He did not return to the game.

“He will go through the protocols that we always put our guys through when they’ve been diagnosed with a concussion,” Sullivan said, per the Washington Post. “The nature of these things is that they are all very different. Sometimes they come around quickly, other times they don’t.”

Crosby, of course, has a well-documented history with concussions. He missed six games in October with one. He missed many more games earlier in his career with the same injury.

Read more: Capitals, Penguins reflect on Crosby’s ‘gut-wrenching’ injury

The Penguins also announced that Crosby’s sometimes linemate, Conor Sheary, has a concussion. Sheary was hurt last night when he collided with teammate Patric Hornqvist.

No word when Sheary might be able to play again, but he did skate this morning on his own.

The Penguins lead the Capitals, 2-1, in the series.

Related: Trotz calls accusations against Caps ‘ridiculous’

After 12-game absence, Lehtera ready to return from concussion

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Blues forward Jori Lehtera, who’s missed nearly a month with a concussion, declared himself healthy and able to return to the lineup ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Jets.

But when will he draw back in?

Lehtera has missed 12 games in a row and, during that spell, St. Louis has played extremely well, going 9-1-2 to move into third spot in the Central Division. That includes Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Preds — the team chasing St. Louis in the Central — and it’s reasonable to suggest head coach Mike Yeo won’t tinker much with a winning lineup.

Lehtera had a difficult year prior to getting hurt, scoring just six goals and 19 points through 61 games. Concussion issues derailed the start of his campaign and, in December, former head coach Ken Hitchcock made the 29-year-old a healthy scratch, saying the Blues needed more from him.

With Lehtera, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri out, Yeo has been forced to integrate some of the organization’s younger forwards into the NHL mix, and the kids have responded. Ivan Barbashev has played well, as has Zach Sanford, one of the assets acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Washington trade.

Video: Pens’ Guentzel suffers concussion from hit by Sabres’ Ristolainen

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Sidney Crosby showed a moment of brilliance and, in contrast, a moment of bitterness during Tuesday’s Penguins – Sabres game, but it wasn’t the only nasty moment.

Crosby’s young linemate Jake Guentzel was clearly struggling after a hit by Buffalo blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen during the first period. Ristolainen received a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference on that play.

You can see that hard hit in the video above.

The Penguins have already been battling a ridiculous slew of injuries, and it sure seemed like Guentzel was dazed. Not good.

This game means a ton more to Pittsburgh than it does to Buffalo, yet the physical play and decent array of scoring chances makes it seem like both teams are quite engaged.

Update: Bad news for the Penguins, as it appears that Guentzel suffered a concussion.

Fading Panthers lose Ekblad, Malgin to concussions for 7-10 days

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The Florida Panthers, losers of seven of the past eight games, are facing what is almost certainly a must-win game on Monday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They will have to do it without the services of start defenseman Aaron Ekblad and center Denis Malgin due to concussions that they suffered on Saturday night in their loss to a depleted Tampa Bay Lightning team.

Coach Tom Rowe announced on Monday (via the Miami Herald) that both players are expected to be sidelined for at least 7-10 days.

Because of the injuries the Panthers had to call up MacKenzie Weegar from the AHL, while Jakub Kindl will draw into the lineup to take Ekblad’s spot.

The 20-year-old Ekblad had appeared in every game for the Panthers this season and recorded 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) before the injury.

The hit that caused the concussion infuriated Rowe, calling it a “real cheap shot from behind” after the game. Gabriel Dumont, the player that delivered the hit, will not face any discipline from the NHL’s department of player safety.

Losing Ekblad at this point is a pretty massive blow to the Panthers’ already fading playoff chances. They are in the middle of a stretch that has seen them collect just three out of a possible 18 points in the standings to fall seven points back of Toronto in the Wild Card race.

A loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday would be pretty much the final blow to their playoff chances.

The concern for Ekblad at this point is this isn’t the first head/neck-related injury he has had over recently. He missed time last season due to another concussion, and was then sent home from the World Cup of Hockey with what was later called “whiplash.”