Crosby's status creates trade-deadline problem for Penguins
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The NHL trade deadline is nine days away, and there are less than six weeks in the Penguins' regular season after that.
It might be easier for general manager Ray Shero and his staff to know what moves, if any, to pursue if he had an idea whether center and captain Sidney Crosby might be back in the lineup before the playoffs.
Crosby simply cannot oblige.
He has been dealing with concussion-like symptoms perhaps related to a neck injury for more than two months and has played in just eight games dating to early January 2011. He said Friday he still has headaches but the trouble he has had with motion and balance has subsided.
- Matchup: Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 1:08 p.m. today, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
- TV, radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins; Ilya Bryzgalov for Flyers.
- Penguins: Are 11-3-1 in past 15 games. ... Evgeni Malkin is three assists shy of 300 for career. ... Jordan Staal ranked fourth in NHL in shooting percent (22.7) before Friday.
- Flyers: Are 2-0 vs. Penguins. ... Home penalty-kill (78.4 percent) among worst in NHL. ... Averaging 16.8 penalty minutes a game, most in NHL.
- Hidden stat: Malkin has 32 goals, James Neal has 29. Penguins have not had two 30-goal scorers since 2008-09 (Malkin and Sidney Crosby).
He did not travel with the club for weekend afternoon games today at Philadelphia and Sunday at Buffalo, N.Y..
Crosby continues to hope he can play before the end of the season, but he has no timetable, and neither he nor any medical professional can say when he will become symptom-free and able to be cleared for contact or, subsequently, for a return to the lineup.
"I'm just trying to get back," Crosby said after joining his teammates Friday for a non-contact practice at Southpointe. "I'm hoping to get back as soon as possible. I'm not going to pretend I know when that is. So am I going to say I'll be ready in a month, or two weeks or a week? No. But I wouldn't be going through all this if I didn't want to play as soon as possible. That's really all I'm worried about."
If the Penguins knew Crosby was going to be out at least until the end of the regular season, then, as long as he remained on long-term injured reserve, they could exceed the salary cap and use some of his $8.7 million cap hit to acquire one or more players. Perhaps they could add a scoring winger or a physical, shutdown defenseman.
"I really can't give you an answer on that," Crosby said. "I'm trying to get back as soon as I can. That will be a decision that's up to management."
The salary cap is not in effect in the postseason.
Crosby, 24, would seem worth the wait if there is a chance he could be back for the stretch run. He has won an NHL scoring title, a league MVP, a share of a goal-scoring championship, captained the Penguins to a Stanley Cup and scored a gold-medal-clinching overtime goal for Canada at the Olympics.
There is no telling, though, when he will get clearance for full participation in practice. He skated with the team Friday only because school kids on a field trip occupied the ice at Southpointe before practice.
"I feel like I'm getting better," Crosby said. "You have days where you feel you're getting a little bit better, and the symptoms are not quite as bad. Other days, they're a little worse.
"Everyone has different symptoms. That's the tough thing about getting a gauge on it. It doesn't always seem to be consistent. It doesn't get consistently worse or better. It's a kind of a roller-coaster. They're not fun, but I feel like I'm getting better. Anyone going through it, that's all you want, is to see a little progress."
Specifically, he said, "the headaches are a little more tolerable than they were before," and his issues with balance and motion have improved enough that he did well at practice amid the swirl of teammates moving at high speed.
He also is happy with his exertion level in workouts that now include regular on-ice sessions, usually separate from the team's, but he noted that his symptoms are a daily occurrence and not just exertion-induced.
"It's pretty clear cut. There's no real gray area," he said. "Either you're symptom-free and can move on to contact or you're not. I feel like I'm progressing, but still not ready to take a hit yet."
Crosby's problems can be traced to hits to the head he got in successive games Jan. 1 and 5 of 2011. He was diagnosed with a concussion and -- after a couple of setbacks and sometimes weeks between taking each step back -- he returned to great fanfare Nov. 21, logging two goals and two assists in a 5-0 win against the New York Islanders.
He had 12 points through eight games but pulled himself back out of the lineup Dec. 6 after his symptoms returned, although he passed an imPACT concussion test. He has seen a series of specialists and has been diagnosed with what was described as a treatable soft-tissue neck injury.
First Published February 18, 2012 12:00 am