Report: Sidney Crosby might not be ready for the start of the 2011-12 season

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It’s going to be tough to forecast the future of the Pittsburgh Penguins because of the still-in-limbo status of their two superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin’s situation might actually be a little easier to gauge since he’s dealing with knee issues rather than ever-elusive concussion problems.

Now, it’s important to take any unconfirmed report with a grain of salt. With that disclaimer out of the way, Josh Rimer of NHL Home Ice reports that “three sources” told him that Crosby won’t be ready for the beginning of the 2011-12 season. Again, it’s impossible to tell how reliable those three sources are, but Rimer is a producer for a well-known hockey radio show so it probably wouldn’t behoove him to throw out a rumor without any basis.

That being said, the regular season is still just a shade under two months away, so there’s always the possibility that Crosby will make more progress than expected. The hope was that Crosby would be healthy enough for training camp so that he could get acquainted with new teammates such as James Neal and Steve Sullivan, but that might not happen now.

The Penguins could probably accept the possibility of Crosby missing a portion of this regular season if it means taking every precaution to make sure that they’re doing what is best for the still very young star’s future. We’ll keep an eye on any denials, confirmations or other comments or updates from the team itself. Again, it’s unclear if this rumor will come to fruition, but it would be a sad situation if Crosby really did miss even more games that “count.”

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Update: While the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is looking into the rumors, Eye on Hockey points out that USA Today’s Kevin Allen provided more optimism in his Saturday report. That report indicates that Crosby is “training and planning as if he will be ready for the start of training camp.” Naturally, that doesn’t mean that he will be ready, but it underscores the idea that the situation is murky at the moment. We’ll keep an eye on the situation.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.