x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Injuries to pivots hurting the Penguins in NHL

No other team in the league can boast of Pittsburgh's pivot power. Problem is, the young guns have only been in the line-up at the same time for a handful of games this season.

Sidney Crosby, right, has missed 20 games with injury for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Sidney Crosby, right, has missed 20 games with injury for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

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Every season, every team in the NHL has to deal with injuries. It is part of doing business in a high-speed game that features big bodies and frequent collisions.

But surely even opponents can feel Pittsburgh's pain.

The Penguins' biggest strength is their 1-2-3 superstar punch down the middle of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. They propelled the Pens to the Stanley Cup final in 2008, and they returned in 2009 and claimed a championship.

No other team in the league can boast of Pittsburgh's pivot power. Problem is, the young guns have only been in the line-up at the same time for a handful of games this season. Staal missed the first half of 2010/11 with a foot problem, returning on January 1 for the outdoor Winter Classic.

That contest just happened to be the game when Washington's Dave Steckel ran into Crosby - hard. "The Kid" finished the game but in the next against Tampa Bay Victor Hedman, the Lightning defenceman, ran Crosby - hard - into the boards.

Crosby is now nursing the effects of a concussion he cannot shake. He has missed 20 games and "day-to-day" has turned into an indefinite leave of absence that might mean the end of the season.

Speaking of season-ending injuries, that is what Malkin suffered when he was checked into the end boards in a game against Buffalo on February 4 which resulted in torn ligaments in his right knee.

And with that the Penguins are heading into the homestretch of the season with a hobbled line-up and handicapped play-off hopes.

It is probably no consolation, but the Pens are not alone as injured contenders. The Vancouver Canucks have endured a couple of months with a decimated blueline; at one point, five of their top six defencemen were out with injuries. Fortunately, for Vancouver, they survived the injury onslaught, thanks to their depth and Roberto Luongo's goaltending.

Like the Canucks, the Detroit Red Wings had a couple months of injury hardship, with top forwards such as Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Holmstrom and Mike Modano all sidelined for lengthy stretches.

Like the Canucks, the Wings got through it - and may even be stronger for it moving forward.

But, like the Penguins, it is a test of character they never wanted to take in the first place.

sports@thenational.ae

REVIEW

Players of the week
• Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles – The Kings centre scored in three straight games, all wins, to help keep his side’s play-off hopes alive.
• Corey Crawford, Chicago – The Blackhawks goalie was part of three successive wins, one via shutout, posting a 1.62 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in the process.
• Phil Kessel, Toronto – Three games, three goals and seven points, and the streaky Leafs sniper is hot once again.

Teams of the week
• San Jose – The Sharks won three times to go top of the Pacific Division.
• Boston – The Bruins beat Calgary and Vancouver to cap a four-game winning run away.
• Los Angeles – The Kings won three times to stay in the play-off hunt.

Duds of the week
• Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit – It was a week to forget for the Red Wings power forward, above: zero points and a minus-5 rating.
• Nashville Predators – The offence has vanished, as the Preds were shut out in two games and lost three straight conference games.

PREVIEW

Series of the week
• Tampa Bay at Boston, Thursday – The Bolts have emerged as a contender in the East, while the Bruins remain one of the conference’s elite clubs.
• Columbus at Calgary, Friday – The Blue Jackets and Flames are among the mass of teams in the middle of the West challenging for the play-offs.
• Vancouver at Los Angeles, Saturday – The first-place Canucks and Kings have gone in opposite directions since Vancouver eliminated LA in last spring’s post-season.