Sid on IR; rule allows quick exit

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It has been clear for a while that Sidney Crosby is not just another NHL player.

This, however, shouldn't be construed as evidence of it.

Oh sure, most guys who go on injured reserve have to stay there for at least seven days, but that's not the case with Crosby.

Even though he will be on IR when the Penguins formally submit their regular-season roster to the league office sometime Wednesday, Crosby will be eligible to dress for the regular-season opener in Vancouver the next night.

That's because of a technicality, not a show of favoritism by NHL's decision-makers.

And it's moot anyway because Crosby still hasn't been cleared to take contact, let alone to appear in a game anytime in the immediate future.

A wrinkle in the league's regulations would allow him to do so when the Penguins face the Canucks, because Crosby was put on injured reserve last season. That means his seven-day clock started, and expired, long ago.

"If we want to take him off for Thursday, we can do it," general manager Ray Shero said, stressing that that is not the plan.

Crosby actually finished 2010-11 on the Long-Term Injured list, which requires a player to be idle for at least 10 games and 24 days.

His place on that list would have had to be renewed before the start of this season, but that became irrelevant when the Penguins were able to handle his $8.7 million salary-cap hit without exceeding the league's $64.3 million ceiling.

Leaving Crosby on injured reserve was one of nine moves the Penguins made Monday to pare their roster to the regular-season limit of 23.

Defenseman Joseph Morrow, their No. 1 draft choice in June, was returned to his Western Hockey League club in Portland, Ore., while forward Jason Williams and defensemen Alexandre Picard and Brian Strait were assigned to the Wilkes-Barre in the American Hockey League.

Williams and Picard must clear waivers at noon today before joining the Baby Penguins.

Finally, forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Petersen and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Boris Valabik will join Crosby on IR.

Crosby and Jeffrey have been practicing and, barring setbacks, appear to be good candidates to rejoin the lineup in the not too terribly distant future, although no target date has been set for either. If and when they're ready to play, management might have a few personnel judgments to make.

"I hope so," Shero said. "I hope we're healthy, and we have some tough decisions."

For the moment, at least, the active roster looks like this:

• Forwards -- Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Mark Letestu, Joe Vitale, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Steve Sullivan, Richard Park, Craig Adams, Arron Asham and Steve MacIntyre.

• Defensemen -- Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Matt Niskanen, Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland.

Goalies -- Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson.

Williams and Picard were signed as free agents in the offseason, and Shero acknowledged the possibility that either could be claimed on waivers, as Nick Johnson was by Minnesota last week.

"Williams, I don't think so, but you never know," he said. "I think the defenseman is more of a risk."

Orpik, recovering from abdominal surgery, was deemed well enough to be placed on the 23-man roster, although Shero said it is not certain that he will be able to play in Vancouver.

"We'll just have to wait and see," Shero said. "We'll see where he is for Thursday. It might be a Saturday [in Calgary] thing."

Had Orpik's recovery not been so far along, his place would have been taken by Strait, Picard or Morrow, although its is worth noting that an injury limited Picard's work during camp.

Of the three, Morrow was the most intriguing possibility because he is only 18 but did not look out of place most of the preseason.

"He lasted longer than we thought," Shero said. "The more he absorbed, the better he played. In the end, we decided [Sunday night] that it was probably best to send him back."


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg.


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