Penguins have to wait and see on Crosby's ankle

Updated: January 21, 2008, 12:22 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins won't know for at least a few more days how long star center Sidney Crosby will be out of their lineup with a high ankle sprain.

Crosby's sprained and swollen right ankle was re-examined Saturday by the team's medical staff, a day after he was injured, but no prognosis for his return will be made until the swelling subsides. Penguins doctors plan to examine the ankle again sometime early in the week.

Because such sprains commonly sideline an athlete for a month or more, Crosby is all but certain to miss the Jan. 27 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta. Crosby, last season's NHL scoring champion and MVP, was the leading vote-getter in All-Star balloting.

"A lot of guys are going to have to pick it up," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.

With Crosby not available, Evgeni Malkin is being counted upon to be the Penguins' top scorer. Last year's NHL rookie of the year has a pair of three-goal games this month and is second on the team in scoring to the 20-year-old Crosby.

"I have been trying as hard as I can, but I'm going to try my best," Malkin said, speaking through an interpreter. "Right now, I am going to try to do maybe a little bit more and make sure we are winning games. I will try to be the leader of this team."

The Penguins won 2-0 in Montreal on Saturday, only the fifth game Crosby has missed due to injury in his three-season NHL career. They were 0-2-2 the last two seasons without Crosby, who sat out one game in 2005-06 with the flu and three others last season with a sore groin.

Crosby becomes the third Penguins player sidelined by a high ankle sprain this season.

Goalie Marc Andre-Fleury, who won 40 games last season, injured an ankle Dec. 6 and hasn't played since. The Penguins remain uncertain when he will return -- an indication of how tricky it can be to guess how long a high ankle sprain will last. Forward Maxime Talbot also missed a month with the injury.

Other athletes who have had the injury, which is common in the NFL, say it is frustrating because rehabilitation alone can't cure a high ankle sprain and considerable rest is needed.

A high ankle sprain is in the ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula in the lower leg and is more serious than the traditional swollen ankle, which sometimes needs only a few days to improve significantly.

Crosby was hurt about 7½ minutes into the first period of the Penguins' 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday night.

Knocked off his skates by the Lightning's Paul Ranger while shooting, Crosby slammed in the rear boards with his left leg up, causing his right foot to bend awkwardly as his right leg absorbed the full impact of the blow. Ranger was called for slashing.

The injury occurred just when Crosby and the Penguins appeared to be peaking. Crosby had 20 points in 12 games to regain a share of the NHL scoring lead and the Penguins were 9-0-1 in their previous 10 games before losing Friday night.

"It's a big loss, but we've got a good team here," Malkin said.

The Penguins get something of a break because, after Saturday, they will play only two games in nine days because of the All-Star layoff.

Last season, Crosby played the final 2½ weeks of the regular season and the Penguins' lone playoff round with a broken left foot, but he did not reveal the injury until the season ended. He did not miss any games with that injury.

Crosby disclosed that injury only when asked why he wasn't playing for his native Canada in the world championships last spring.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE