Penguins Notebook: Wild knows it gets break with Crosby out
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The Penguins had no update Friday on center, captain and NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby, who has a mild concussion.
Minnesota, which faces the Penguins tonight at Consol Energy Center, knows all it needs to -- that it does not need a game plan that includes trying to slow Crosby, who has 66 points in 41 games.
Crosby missed the 2-1 shootout loss Thursday at Montreal and is expected to be out several more days, until he is symptom-free.
The Wild sees some advantage to playing a Penguins club without Crosby, who centers the top line and forces opponents to think carefully about matchups because they can't overlook the second line with Evgeni Malkin (and now Jordan Staal) -- especially for road teams because they do not get the last line change.
"In my mind, he's the top guy in the league, so to have him out of the lineup [doesn't hurt]," defenseman Nick Schultz said. "But Pittsburgh has a lot of players. They're not a one-player team by any means."
Minnesota coach Todd Richards understands the dimension the Penguins lose when Crosby is out, but he also laments the missed opportunity to have his team take on Crosby.
The two clubs meet only once or twice a season because they are in opposite conferences.
"You're taking their best player, one of their best players, out of the lineup," Richards said. "But I think it's always a challenge, and you want to beat the best."
The Wild doesn't have a roster full of big names, especially since sniper Marian Gaborik left to sign with the New York Rangers as a free agent.
That was driven home for Richards when Minnesota arrived in Boston before its game there Thursday and the coach was reading some publication's look ahead at the matchup.
"There was something to the effect of, our roster's not worth writing about," Richards said. "We don't get the respect that we feel we deserve at times. But there's only one way that you can get that respect. It's not given. You have to earn it."
The Wild is led in scoring by winger Martin Havlat (36 points) and center Mikko Koivu (35 points).
But even if those two were bigger names, playing in the Western Conference might keep them from getting their due notice.
The East is cluttered with stars who are heavily promoted and widely recognized -- Crosby, Washington winger Alex Ovechkin, Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos.
"You look at the top names, the faces of the NHL, it's definitely more in the East," Richards said.
"In the West, we have [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews in Chicago or some guys in Detroit that have won [the Stanley Cup] in the past. But you look at a young team like Colorado that is up and coming, and you never hear about them."
Even with the season only at its midpoint, the West stages tense, meaningful games. Going into Friday, the nine teams in the West between fourth and 12th place were separated by three points. Minnesota, with 45 points, was in a three-way tie for 10th, one point off the playoff pace.
"This is the position that we're in," Richards said. "You know what? I kind of like the position -- trying to prove people wrong."
The Penguins and the Wild canceled their practices scheduled for Consol Energy Center, but Minnesota spent about an hour at the new arena for a team meeting and some light off-ice workouts. The Wild then headed to a local bowling alley for a team-building outing. ... With franchise goaltender Niklas Backstrom expected to miss a fourth game in a row because of an undisclosed injury, Jose Theodore is expected to start for Minnesota. The Wild has won three in a row with Theodore. ... The Penguins are 2 for 12 (16.7 percent) on the power play over their past four games, with both goals coming in the blowout against Tampa Bay. Minnesota is 10 for 10 in penalty-killing in its past four games. ... Richards and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who coached together with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) took some time to visit at the arena.
First Published January 8, 2011 12:00 am