Good news, bad news behind Crosby's injury
Not having the defending NHL MVP and scoring champ in the lineup for a month and a half is obviously not a good thing. (Hey, this isn't rocket science.) Crosby was in a groove before he suffered the high ankle sprain Friday night vs. Tampa Bay, returning to the top of the NHL scoring race after a slow (all things being relative when it comes to Crosby) start to the season. Likewise, the team had been on a tear and jumped to top of the Atlantic Division standings due in large part to Crosby's play.
In the two games the Pens have played without Crosby, they have managed to gain three of four possible points (they lost in a shootout to Washington at home Monday after blanking the Canadiens in Montreal 2-0 on Saturday). That bodes well for a team that is already playing without Gary Roberts (broken leg), Marc-Andre Fleury (ankle), Colby Armstrong (hip) and Adam Hall (groin).
Still, Pittsburgh is going to find out something about its own intestinal fortitude without Crosby for an extended period of time. Teams often find hidden gems in their own lineups when injuries open up opportunities for players, and the Pens are hoping they'll find some of their own.
The bottom line in all of this is that the prognosis for Crosby's recovery could have been worse.
With Crosby expected to return to action sometime within the first two weeks of March, he will have close to a month to get back into playoff form. Even if the Pens stumble a bit, they should still be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture at that point.
The good news? The fact Crosby should be back before the playoffs will take some of the pressure off GM Ray Shero to make a dramatic move to try and fill the void created by Crosby's absence.
If Crosby wasn't sure of being back before the postseason, Shero might have been more tempted to try and bring in one of the big-name players expected to be on the market before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, like Marian Hossa or Mats Sundin, to ensure his squad qualifies for the playoffs.
There have been plenty of rumors surrounding a potential Jordan Staal-for-Hossa deal; the Penguins aren't likely to be in any hurry to move Staal despite his less-productive sophomore season.
It's believed Shero is determined to keep all three of his young centers -- Staal, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- in the fold, and who can blame him? At some point, Staal might move to the wing, where Malkin has been playing for much of this season on the Pens' top line; but don't look for Shero to part company with a young man who was on last season's rookie of the year ballot.
Believing Crosby will be back in the fold sooner than later makes that long-term plan a lot easier for Shero.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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