Sidney Crosby

Video: Crosby erases some worries with backhander


Whenever Sidney Crosby doesn’t score a goal for a while, the hand-wringing and rumor-mongering starts. The Pittsburgh Penguins star often takes the opportunity to tell everyone to relax with his play soon after.

He did it again on Monday, as he scored a beauty of a backhand goal against the New Jersey Devils:

In other words, don’t worry … unless you’re facing him.

NHL on NBCSN: Can Capitals take advantage of depleted Penguins?


NBCSN will kick off its post-holiday schedule with back-to-back rivalry games tonight. The first will feature the Penguins and Capitals in Pittsburgh and start at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Say what you will about the Penguins’ performance in their recent playoff runs — certainly there’s never a shortage of discussion on that subject — but they are an imposing team on paper and if nothing else, that has translated seamlessly in the regular season for years. They certainly have been an oppressive force against the Capitals, who haven’t beaten Pittsburgh since Jan. 11, 2012.

This is not a typical game for Pittsburgh though. The core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury should be on the ice, but a combination of injuries and the mumps have decimated the supporting cast. When the Penguins played against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, 22-year-old Bryan Rust spent his sixth career NHL game skating on a line with Crosby. Rob Klinkhammer, typically a bottom-six forward with 39 points in 137 career contests, was playing alongside Malkin. Their blueline featured three rookies that each made their NHL season debut this month in Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin, and Scott Harrington.

What a time it is for blueliners Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to make their return to Pittsburgh, especially when mixed with the fact that the Capitals are on a 7-1-2 run.

“We all feel really confident right now and we’re starting to climb in the standings,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner told CSN Washington. “It’s been kind of a perfect storm with important games, the Winter Classic coming up. It’s all coming together.”

Even still, it would be wrong to count the Penguins out. Despite the adversity that they’ve faced recently, the squad has remained competitive. Tampa Bay took a 4-0 lead against Pittsburgh, but even with its depleted roster and against one of the top teams in the league, the Penguins rallied back to at least make it a 4-3 loss.

“It says an awful lot about the leadership in this group,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Guys on the bench were into the game. They were down 4-0 but were talking about getting that first goal or about getting a power-play opportunity. We had them on their heels in the third period. That’s a good building block for us.”

So while this is a good chance for the Capitals to end their skid against Pittsburgh, it still won’t be easy.

More mumps: Downie and Greiss test positive


Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss have tested positive for the mumps and remain in isolation, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced today.

On the bright side, Brandon Sutter has tested negative and is cleared to return to the team.

All three players were missing due to illness for the Penguins’ last two games before the Christmas break.

Sidney Crosby, Beau Bennett and Olli Maatta are the three other Pittsburgh players who have tested positive for mumps. Crosby has since returned to the lineup. The other two remain on injured reserve.

The Pens return to action Saturday versus Washington.

PHT’s top 14 of ’14: The NHL gets the mumps


Some of the initial reactions to the NHL’s mumps outbreak that has hit at least 17 players were surprise and confusion.

Isn’t that the disease that everyone gets vaccinated for when they’re young?

The one that’s been all but extinct since the late 1960s?

How is it that the NHL of all places, populated by some of the healthiest people on the planet with access to state of the art facilities and medical care, being victimized by this illness?

Over the past couple months, we’ve had our assumptions corrected while watching elite players Corey Perry and Sidney Crosby be sent to the sidelines. It’s not unfair to say that, at least in terms of the NHL, 2014 was the year of the mumps.

The illness has spread fast and furious with many fans now realizing that while the vaccine is effective, it doesn’t provide complete immunity. Players work in close quarters with each other and victims of the disease will be contagious before the telltale swelling of the salivary glands begin, so it’s easy to see why the NHL’s had such a tough time getting this disease under its thumb. The fact mumps can be spread before you know you have it is a problem that has elevated this beyond the status of an ordinary injury.

As Pens forward Beau Bennett realized, this outbreak has the potential to extend beyond the hockey world. Bennett visited a children’s hospital before he realized he had the mumps and that led to kids being put into isolation, per the National Post. In response to that, other teams — like the New York Islanders — postponed their scheduled holiday hospital visits, as Newsday reported.

All that being said, the mumps are still uncharted waters. While relatively isolated outbreaks aren’t an unheard of occurrence in recent years, this is the first time it’s plagued a professional sports league, according to ESPN. You can bet the NFL and NBA are keeping a close eye on the situation now that that glass ceiling has been shattered, so to speak.

While this disease has already sidelined more than a dozen players, led to several others being put into precautionary quarantine, and put the spotlight on a disease many assumed was no longer an issue, perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is that this might not just be a NHL story. This isn’t just something that has happened and can be reflected on — this is an ongoing, breaking news situation that has the potential to remain in the forefront for a while.

The CDC’s Dr. Greg Wallace, who leads their domestic measles, mumps, rubella and polio team, said that the NHL would need to go about 50 days without a new case before the outbreak can be seen as over. Given that new diagnoses are still being made, it’s hard to say when we’ll get to that point.

What we can say for certain is that the mumps have been an unfortunate, but huge part of the 2014-15 campaign.

Devils test Elias, Havlat for mumps

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More from the infamous mumps outbreak of ’14 — on Monday, the Devils confirmed that Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias are undergoing tests for the illness, which already infected teammates Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson.

Havlat played in Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Washington and was pretty ineffective in just over 14 minutes of ice time, finishing minus-1 with just one shot on goal. Elias played more (17:40) but finished minus-2 with no shots on goal (though he did miss the net three times).

Earlier today, the Penguins announced that three players — Thomas Greiss, Steve Downie and Brandon Sutter — had all been return to Pittsburgh to undergo testing for the mumps. The Penguins, who play in Florida tonight, have already seen captain Sidney Crosby, defenseman Olli Maatta and forward Beau Bennett get diagnosed with the mumps.