Sore right ankle will keep Crosby out a week

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Center Sidney Crosby and right winger Marian Hossa had stalls near each other in the Penguins' Southpointe locker room yesterday.

That's as close as the two projected linemates will come for a while.

Although newcomer Hossa is a strong candidate to return from a knee sprain tomorrow against Philadelphia, Crosby will miss the afternoon game on NBC at Mellon Arena as he takes more time off because of his sore right ankle.

"I'm just going to take a week here to give it more time to rest," Crosby said after missing practice. "It's just one of those nagging things. I know what's coming up in the future, and I want to make sure that I give it the best possible chance to be strong."

The future he cited is the stretch run of the regular season and the playoffs.

Crosby missed 21 games because of a high ankle sprain he received in a Jan. 18 game when he went feet-first into the boards at Mellon Arena. He returned March 4 and played in three games, recording two goals and two assists and an average of 22 shifts.

But he has had swelling, soreness and weakness in the ankle since Sunday's 4-2 victory at Washington and sat out Wednesday's game against Buffalo.

"The easiest thing to do is just let him play because he wants to play, but I think after taking everything into consideration with Sid, our doctors and trainers and coaching staff thought the best thing is to pull him back a bit and let him get better," general manager Ray Shero said. "I think that's the proper thing to do."

The Penguins have 11 regular-season games remaining. Beyond tomorrow, Crosby is expected to miss Tuesday's road game against the New York Rangers and Thursday's home game against Tampa Bay.

After that, all the team's games are inside the Atlantic Division. The playoffs begin April 9 or 10.

Crosby's ankle is not so bothersome that he would be taking time off if the postseason started tomorrow.

"If it was the playoffs, yeah, for sure [I would play]," he said.

"You expect it to be sore with this injury, but it was a little more sore, a little more weak. When it's weak, that's when you start flirting with danger a bit. I just want to give it some time to strengthen up a little bit again."

He isn't sure whether he will stay off the ice the entire week.

"I'm going to see how it feels over the next few days," said Crosby, who has dealt with the frustration of the injury for nearly two months.

Yesterday marked eight weeks since he was injured. The original prognosis was that he would be out six to eight weeks.

"It's not easy," he said. "At this point, it's almost been a day at a time the last week trying to figure out what's going on. There's no real cure. Time is going to heal it and make it better.

"Hopefully, we're going to have a good playoff run, so we're just trying to make sure we give it the best chance possible."

Hossa, who was acquired at the Feb. 26 trade deadline, is hoping to play for the first time since he went out with a right knee sprain midway through his first game with the Penguins -- while Crosby was out with the ankle injury.

"I feel better every day, so, hopefully, Sunday," he said. "When I'm skating, it's not the pain anymore, but when I'm twisting the knee, I feel it a little bit."

He has been wearing a brace, one that matches the left knee brace he has worn for several years because of an earlier injury. He'll probably wear the new one the rest of the season.

"It looks like it," Hossa said. "It's going to be my new friend. I have to get used to it."

The Penguins also are expecting forward Max Talbot to return tomorrow. He tweaked his high ankle sprain in the Washington game. He sat out the Buffalo game but practiced yesterday.

"I'll be ready for Sunday," Talbot said. "It was a good week to get a little rest. You have to be smart about it. It's such a bad injury."

Winger Petr Sykora skipped practice to rest his sore back but is expected to play against the Flyers.

Coach Michel Therrien will need to continue to cobble together the line combinations behind the Ryan Malone-Evegni Malkin-Sykora threesome.

Perhaps by the playoffs, Crosby and Hossa will have gotten the chance to see how well they click as linemates. For now, it's anybody's guess when they will be in the lineup at the same time.

"I don't know," Crosby said, with a little smile. "I'm looking forward to it when it does come, but it has been interesting the way it's worked out."


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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