Patric Hornqvist

Crosby out six weeks for Penguins following ‘core muscle injury repair’

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will miss at least the next six weeks after undergoing a successful core muscle injury repair, per the team.

Crosby was injured last Saturday against the Blackhawks. The Athletic’s Rob Rossi reported this week that the forward had been bothered by a sports hernia since training camp, but held off on surgery due to the number of injuries affecting the team. The Penguins are also currently without Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist, both of whom are sidelined with lower-body injuries.

After concussion and other various injuries earlier in his career, Crosby has stayed relatively healthy for the last six seasons, missing only a total of 19 regular-season games since 2013-14. A six-week timeline would have him back in the lineup just after Christmas, which would have him out for 18 games.

“I don’t think the guys are deflated by any stretch,” Sullivan said earlier this week. “Obviously, [Crosby] is a critically important player for us. He’s not an easy guy to replace with everything that he does and he helps in the way he helps our team, and the contributions he makes. No one person is going to pick up that slack.”

In Crosby’s place on the Penguins’ top was Jared McCann Tuesday night alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Jake Guentzel. There will be more “the rest of us have to step up” talk coming from the dressing room now that their captain has joined the list of injured teammates.

For their part, the Penguins have had pretty balanced scoring through the first month of the season with 15 different forwards netting goals. But without the captain and Hornqvist up front, that production cannot let up if they’re to maintain their spot in the early-season playoff mix in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference.

MORE: Our Line Starts podcast: Crosby, Marner injuries; Montgomery’s comments

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL on NBCSN: Penguins eyeing end to power play woes vs. Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

It’s pretty unusual to see the Penguins near the bottom of the NHL in power play efficiency, but here we are.

Sitting with the fourth-worst success rate (12.5%) in the league, the Penguins are hoping to snap out of their funk Tuesday night against the Rangers. New York’s penalty kill has been okay so far, killing off 80.3% of man advantage opportunities. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has not scored a power play goal since Oct. 13 and have failed in their last 26 chances.

During Monday’s practice, there were times when head coach Mike Sullivan had his power play units work 5-on-0 against goaltender Matt Murray. There was success in beating the netminder, but Sullivan’s goal was to make his players realize they just have to follow the K.I.S.S. method: keep it simple and execute and their fortunes will change.

“We scored some goals,” Sullivan said afterward. “So that’s progress, you know?”

The Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang against the Rangers. Those are three huge pieces of their power play setup gone. In their place, the top setup at Monday’s practice featured Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Bjugstad and Justin Schultz.

Hornqvist’s absence means there is a need for another havoc-creator in front of opposing goalies, someone to set screens and cash in on those greasy goals right in front of the net. That will be Bjugstad’s role for now.

“That’s one thing that [Hornqvist] brings to our power play that’s important,” Sullivan said. “You have to make it tough on the goalie. You’ve got to take sight lines away. You have to limit his ability by being in and around the crease. I just don’t think we’ve gone there enough.”

Sullivan feels that the length of the current man advantage drought is playing into his players getting away from keeping it simple.

“It’s only been most recently that the power play has struggled in the sense that there hasn’t been execution,” he said. “There was a long time there that we felt the power play was doing everything except put the puck in the net, and so as that starts to evolve, if you don’t start to score, I think it’s a natural inclination to start to squeeze your stick and press a little bit, and that’s a whole different challenge, and so these are some of the dynamics that we are trying to work through as a group.

“But I do believe that part of the solution has to be just simplifying everything we do, and it starts with just shooting the puck more and getting more pucks and people to the net.”

MORE: Crosby out vs. Rangers, injury still being evaluated

Brendan Burke and Joe Micheletti will call the Penguins-Rangers showdown from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Paul Burmeister will anchor studio coverage with analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL Power Rankings: The quiet dominance of the Capitals

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Maybe it is because we are so used to seeing them at the top of the NHL standings.

Maybe it is because they already won their Stanley Cup and there is no longer any pressure on them to shake their postseason disappointment label.

Or maybe it is because there are so many other intriguing stories around the NHL that are dominating headlines (Edmonton and Vancouver off to surprising starts, the Islanders winning 10 in a row, Boston and St. Louis looking like they can get back to the Stanley Cup Final).

Whatever the reason, it seems like the Washington Capitals are getting a little overlooked this season and it is kind of amazing given just how dominant they have been. Entering the week they are 13-2-3 for the season, are one of the highest scoring teams in the league, have the best points percentage in the league, and have recorded at least a point in 11 consecutive games (10-0-1). What stands out the most about this start is they are doing it while getting mostly sub-par goaltending from Braden Holtby. If he gets back on track there is the potential for another championship parade in Washington D.C..

Because of all of that the Capitals climb to the top spot in this week’s PHT Power Rankings.

Where does every other team sit this season?

To the rankings!

1. Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin at 34 years of age is off to the second best goal scoring start of his career. He just keeps going and completely disregarding the normal aging curve of players.

2. St. Louis Blues. The defending champs were 3-2-3 after eight games and lost their best player for what will probably most — if not all — of the regular season. All they have done is go 9-1-0 in their past 10 games. Lot of overtime luck in there, but they are building themselves a nice cushion.

3. New York Islanders. After starting the year 1-3-0 they are entering the week on an 11-0-1 run, with the only loss coming in overtime after surrendering a three-goal third period lead.

4. Boston Bruins. Eventually somebody other than David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand will have to start scoring some goals. They have time to figure it out.

5. Philadelphia Flyers. Very quietly the Flyers have one of the top points percentages in the NHL (sixth best) and have won five out of their past six. Five of those six games have gone to overtime or a shootout so they are not really decisive wins, but their underlying and possession numbers paint the picture of a team that might have the right process.

6. Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Drasaitl are doing exactly what is expected and exactly what they always do. The big difference-makers this season, though, are Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen playing great in net. Those two are the players that will determine what this team is able to do.

7. Colorado Avalanche. They slumped recently but am going to give them the benefit of the doubt due to the injury situation. When healthy they showed they can dominate, and they showed against Nashville and Columbus they can still score goals even without Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins. Just when it looked like they were starting to get fully healthy Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist all exited the lineup with injuries. They are still playing extremely well despite all of the players they have been missing but the absence of Crosby will be a huge test.

9. Montreal Canadiens. Shea Weber can still be a great player and change a game when he is healthy.

10. Florida Panthers. If Sergei Bobrovsky would start playing like the goalie they paid him to be they would really be on to something this year. There is still plenty of time for him to turn it around and if/when he does this could be a sneaky dangerous team.

11. Nashville Predators. Filip Forsberg has five points in five games since returning to the lineup. The offense has been great, but they need more from the goalies, specifically Jusse Saros.

12. Dallas Stars. Ben Bishop got back on track and so did the Stars. They still need to do something to find some more offense because no goalie is great enough to allow one goal every game.

13. Winnipeg Jets. Paul Maurice deserves a lot of credit for keeping this team competitive given the state of the defense. But do you know who deserves more credit? Goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning. They are starting to show some signs of getting back on track, but something still seems a little off here.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs. Everybody wants the Maple Leafs to change the way the play, but what if the change they need to make is to become more aggressive offensively, and not less?

16. Calgary Flames. They are starting to get back on track after a slow start. Matthew Tkachuk is the engine driving this machine right now.

17. Arizona Coyotes. They are definitely on the right track but still need to learn how to finish games.

18. Vancouver Canucks. The offense has gone cold during their four-game losing streak, but there are still a lot of encouraging signs here with this team.

19. Vegas Golden Knights. They have lost five out of six and still have not found a competent backup goalie to give Marc-Andre Fleury some rest. That is an under the radar problem that is going to need to be addressed.

20. Carolina Hurricanes. I still believe when all is said and done this season they will be a contender in the Eastern Conference, but they look out of sorts right now across the board.

21. Buffalo Sabres. The competition has started to get tougher and the losses have become more frequent. Not a good sign. After starting the year 8-1-0 the Sabres are 1-5-1 since with the only win coming against a lousy Detroit Red Wings team.

22. New York Rangers. Adam Fox has been the most impressive rookie on this team. That is not a knock on No. 2 overall pick Kaapo Kakko, just a statement on how good Fox has been.

23. San Jose Sharks. Starting to show some signs of life, but how far are they really going to go with that goaltending?

24. Chicago Blackhawks. They are finding ways to collect points every other game, but there is not really anything impressive about their play.

25. Ottawa Senators. They may not have a ton of talent but they play hard and are not throwing in the towel on this season.

26. Anaheim Ducks. If John Gibson and Ryan Miller are not flawless this team has no chance. Both goalies are having outstanding years and the team is still trending toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

27. New Jersey Devils. Jack Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, is starting to look more comfortable.

28. Minnesota Wild. Their big rally against Arizona was a nice break from the overall disappointment that has been the 2019-20 season.

29. Columbus Blue Jackets. My sleeper team for the season is turning out to be exactly what everyone thought it would be.

30. Detroit Red Wings. After losing 12 out of 13 they managed to beat Boston and Vegas in back-to-back games. Even with those two wins they are still just 3-11-1 in their past 15 games. That is bad. What is not bad? Robby Fabbri scoring two goals in his first game with the team.

31. Los Angeles Kings. Time to start selling off whatever they can.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Crosby out vs. Rangers, injury still being evaluated

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Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan offered an injury update on Sidney Crosby on Monday afternoon and it was not exactly an encouraging one.

Crosby has already been ruled out for the Penguins’ game in New York on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) against the Rangers and he will not accompany the team on its current road trip (it is a two-game trip that takes them to New York and New Jersey).

According to Sullivan, Crosby’s injury is still being evaluated and he does not yet know if it will be a long-term situation.

Editor’s note: Need tickets for Tuesday? Click here

Crosby was injured during the Penguins’ 3-2 shootout win on Saturday night early in the third period. He played just one shift in that period that saw him take an awkward fall after being tangled up with Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson, and then block a shot with his foot.

He is another look at the sequence.

Jared McCann took Crosby’s place centering the top line at practice on Monday between Jake Guentzel and Alex Galchenyuk. Evgeni Malkin, still working his back from an injury of his own, remained on the second line between Dominik Simon and Bryan Rust.

The Penguins are already without Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist, continuing what has been a season-long trend of significant injuries. Even with all of the injuries they are 4-1-1 in their past six games and 10-6-1 for the season.

Crosby has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 17 games this season and is one of the biggest reasons they were able to overcome their early season injury issues and keep winning games.

Related: Penguins rally again but Crosby leaves with injury

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Penguins rally again but Crosby leaves with injury

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PITTSBURGH — For the second game in a row the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to come back from a multiple goal deficit to take two points in the standings, erasing a two-goal deficit to pick up a 3-2 shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

This latest win came with a potentially big cost, however, as Sidney Crosby exited the game early in the third period after a tough shift that saw him get tangled up with Blackhawks’ defenseman Erik Gustafsson, and then later block a shot with his foot.

That was his only shift of the period and it is not clear what exactly caused the injury.

The only update Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had after the game was that Crosby was in the process of being evaluated for a “lower-body injury” and that an update is expected on Monday. The Penguins’ next game will be on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers.

Crosby is the engine that drives the Penguins’ team and he has been his usual dominant self this season in all phases of the game. Losing him would be a pretty significant blow, especially as the team is already playing without No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist.

The season is not even a quarter of the way old and injuries have been a constant issue for the Penguins from the very beginning. At various times they have been without Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Dumoulin, Letang, Hornqvist, and now — potentially — Crosby. They have only had their full roster as it was intended to look for a handful of games. They have dominated in those rare instances where they have been fully healthy, they have just not had a chance to see it very often.

Even with the injuries Saturday’s win improved the Penguins to 10-6-1 on the season. They are currently on a 4-1-1 run over their past six games. The only regulation loss came on Monday night in Boston when they erased a 3-0 deficit only to lose late in the third period.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.