Sidney Crosby can be stubborn about wanting to play -- he recently fought through a flu-like illness without missing any games -- but a sore groin proved more stubborn and knocked him out of the Penguins' lineup last night against the New York Islanders.
"It hasn't improved enough to go," the center and team captain said after lasting just eight minutes and a couple drills at the morning skate.
He described himself as day to day. The Penguins begin a five-game road trip tomorrow night in Chicago.
Crosby said he first felt the problem Sunday in a 5-2 loss at Washington. He made it through Monday's practice, then left Tuesday's workout early.
"Monday it was pretty much the same, but I was hoping it would go away," Crosby said. "We've had only so much time to practice with the new coach, so I tried to get through that. It was more sore [Tuesday].
"It's happened a couple times, where I've strained it or it felt a bit off, so I know that feeling."
Crosby, who is tied with Washington's Alex Ovechkin for second in NHL scoring at 79 points each, missed his only previous game this season, a 3-1 win Jan. 16 against Anaheim, because of a knee injury.
"He's a dynamic player and he's certainly a big part of the plan, but the plan hasn't changed," interim coach Dan Bylsma said of playing without Crosby. "Maybe some adjustments, but we still look to play in the offensive end as much as we can and dictate the pace of the play by doing so."
Whitney misses game
The Penguins also were without defenseman Ryan Whitney, who returned home to Boston because of a family matter. Bylsma is hopeful Whitney will join the team in Chicago. That opened a spot for Kris Letang, who had been scratched the previous three games.
Pesonen recalled, sits
The Penguins recalled Janne Pesonen from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after Crosby was ruled out, but he was a healthy scratch. The Finnish winger, signed last summer, had played sparingly and primarily on the third and fourth lines in seven games over six stints with the Penguins.
Although they are last in the NHL, the Islanders continue to be a work in progress in the eyes of first-year coach Scott Gordon.
They were 6-6-2 in the 14 games before last night, and Gordon credited having a chance to work on tightening things defensively after a busy schedule in November followed by a December in which the team was decimated by injuries.
"Outside of getting a bad rebound or a bad bounce, we're not getting hemmed in in our zone for long periods of time," he said. "We're closing in on the man with the puck quicker. As a result, the opposition is not getting as much time as they had before. I hadn't realized the impact it was having and how slow we were to close on the man."
All but four Penguins participated in an optional morning skate. ... Pesonen was the Penguins' only healthy scratch. ... The Islanders scratched winger Richard Park.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721.