Penguins Notebook: Crosby unlikely to play before All-Star break
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NEWARK, N.J. -- The Penguins have not announced that Sidney Crosby, who has missed seven consecutive games because of a concussion, will not play again until after the NHL All-Star break.
Perhaps they never will -- mostly because it really isn't necessary.
Simply as a practical matter, it's almost inconceivable that Crosby could be ready to return for a game against the New York Islanders on Tuesday at Consol Energy Center, the Penguins' last game before the break.
Before Crosby gets clearance to play, he must be able to get through off-ice workouts without experiencing any concussion-related symptoms, then do the same with on-ice practices.
Throw in the challenge of Crosby, who hasn't been in a game since Jan. 5, working his way back into game shape -- he hasn't been allowed to exert himself since being diagnosed with the concussion -- and it's obvious that expecting him back before the break isn't realistic.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday, "I don't know if he's gone to symptom-free yet." That has to happen before Crosby is allowed to start dryland activities.
The Penguins' game Thursday night against New Jersey at the Prudential Center marked the first time since Evgeni Malkin joined the team in 2006 that he and Crosby missed the same game.
Bylsma said he didn't know whether Malkin, who apparently has aggravated a problem with his left knee that has bothered him throughout the season, will be available Saturday when Carolina visits Consol Energy Center.
There are very few sure things in this game.
This, Devils goalie Johan Hedberg figured, was one of them.
Hedberg has played in just four playoff games -- two in Vancouver, two in Atlanta -- since appearing in 18 while leading the Penguins to the Eastern Conference final in 2001, but he figured his drought was over when he signed with New Jersey as a free agent in the summer.
Oh, he realized Martin Brodeur would get most, if not all, of the work in goal during the postseason, but Hedberg figured he at least would be part of a playoff club again.
"One of the big reasons I signed was that I felt we had a great chance to make it far [into the playoffs]," he said. "But that's not the way things have been going."
Indeed, even though the Devils were on a 3-0-1 roll before Thursday night, they're buried too deep in the standings to become a factor in the playoff race.
That's especially tough to accept for guys who have been part of numerous winning teams here.
"It's hard, no question," said center Jason Arnott, who scored a Stanley Cup-winning goal for New Jersey in 2000. "It's real hard. It's disappointing because we know we have a lot of talent."
When it was determined that Malkin would be unable to play against the Devils, Dustin Jeffrey was recalled from the Penguins' minor league team in Wilkes-Barre for the third time in about 10 days.
Bounce between the NHL and American Hockey League that often, and it seems possible that a guy could wake up some morning and not know where he was.
That hasn't been a problem yet, Jeffrey said.
"There have been some times when I woke up and didn't know where I was going, that's for sure," he said, chuckling.
Not that Jeffrey, who made his fifth appearance of the season Thursday night, minds.
"It's been a hectic time," he said, "but I'll take this over the one game I had [in the NHL] last year."
Devils left winger Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the most feared goal-scorers in the NHL, even though he had just 13 going into Thursday night's game.
No one ever has been terribly impressed by his defensive work, however.
Nonetheless, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire has been giving Kovalchuk a bit of ice time lately while New Jersey is short-handed, and he believes Kovalchuk genuinely wants to get better in his own zone.
"I think he's improving big-time," Lemaire said. "He's been scoring and thinking about the defensive game, which is good. Before, he was thinking [only] about the offense, and he wasn't scoring."
First Published January 21, 2011 12:00 am