Penguins Notebook: Coaching staff takes players word on aches, pains

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In this season of injury after injury, the Penguins have learned to trust their players to be open and honest about whether they're fit to play.

So when team captain Sidney Crosby told coach Michel Therrien and general manager Ray Shero after yesterday's morning skate that his right ankle was sore and he didn't think it would be smart for him to play last night against Buffalo, there was no second-guessing.

Same thing with winger Petr Sykora, who Monday was looking doubtful for the game because of a sore back but felt improved enough after the morning skate that he was able to play.

"It's a good thing that the trust is there," Therrien said. "The most important thing is we're not forcing our players to play. We have to make sure when they come back, they're going to be 100 percent."

Crosby had played the previous three games after missing 21 because of a high ankle sprain. Usually one of the last players off the ice, he came off with the first wave of teammates at the end of the morning skate.

"It's pretty sore," he said of the ankle. "It's one of those things that's going to drag on a bit. We have a few more days before the next game. If I have to give it some time, I guess this is the best time."

Crosby hopes to play Sunday when the Penguins play Philadelphia in a nationally televised afternoon game at home. The team could also get winger Marian Hossa back from a sprained knee that game.

Crosby said he did not reinjure the ankle in a 4-2 victory Sunday at Washington -- as forward Max Talbot did with his high ankle sprain -- nor does he fear he came back too soon when he played March 4 against Tampa Bay.

Sykora, meanwhile, gave the team the opposite news.

"I can see the progress," he said. "I went out on the ice and I feel that without hurting the team, I can play."

Expect warm welcome

Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu, a native of Finland, predicted the Penguins will get a nice reception when they play an exhibition game Oct. 2 against Jokerit in Helsinki, two days before they open the regular season with the first of two games against Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden.

"I think people will be excited to see all the stars," Ruutu said. "It's going to be great."

Jokerit plays in the SM-Liiga, the top pro league in Finland. Ruutu previously played for HIFK Helsinki, Jokerit's biggest rival with rinks just a couple miles apart.

"Those fans are not going to like me," Ruutu said with a smile.

Tickets for the Penguins-Jokerit game go on sale April 1.

Suspension and injuries

Buffalo also was playing short-handed.

Winger Andrew Peters served a one-game suspension from the NHL for an incident Sunday when, from the players' bench, he got into an altercation with the New York Rangers' Colton Orr.

That was on top of several Sabres injuries.

Although they got Henrik Tallinder back on defense, they were without defensemen Dmitri Kalinin (shoulder) and Jaroslav Spacek (chest), whose injuries occurred Monday and appear long term, and forward Mike Ryan (groin).

That opened the door for Mike Weber, formerly of Seneca Valley High School and the Junior Penguins, who was called up from Rochester of the American Hockey League. He spent four games with the Sabres during an earlier call-up, collecting no points.

Slap shots

The Penguins set a club record with their 35th sellout of the season at Mellon Arena. It was their 48th consecutive sellout, dating to last season. ... Sunday's win was No. 100 in the NHL for Therrien. ... Injured Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi, who missed his seventh game, said the pin in his pinky -- which protrudes through the skin at the top of the finger -- will be removed soon. ... The only healthy Penguins scratch was goaltender Dany Sabourin. Buffalo scratched forward Tim Connolly. ... Shero got a nasty gash on his chin when he was high-sticked by Penguins broadcaster and former player Phil Bourque during a regular home-game-day pickup game.


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


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