Crosby concussion casts shadow on Pen­guins’ Cup re­peat bid

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS - NEW YORK:

With cap­tain Sid­ney Crosby side­lined in­def­i­nitely over the lat­est in a se­ries of concussions, Pitts­burgh’s bid to re­peat as Na­tional Hockey League cham­pi­ons is off to a rocky start.

Not since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 has a team won the Stan­ley Cup two sea­sons in a row. The Pen­guins, who beat San Jose last June to cap­ture their first Stan­ley Cup since 2009, rely upon Crosby for leadership and spark along­side tal­ented scor­ers Ev­geni Malkin and Phil Kes­sel.

“Frus­tra­tion at this point is a use­less emotion,” Pen­guins coach Mike Sul­li­van said. “He’s ob­vi­ously an im­por­tant player for us, but our team has dealt with in­juries in the past to some of our key play­ers. It pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for oth­ers to step up.”

It’s a ma­jor step. The 29-year-old cen­ter was named Most Valu­able Player (MVP) in the World Cup of Hockey af­ter lead­ing Canada to the ti­tle just two weeks ago, scor­ing three goals and set­ting up seven oth­ers.

Last season, Crosby was the Stan­ley Cup play­offs MVP in claim­ing his se­cond NHL crown with the Pen­guins. Pitts­burgh was the reign­ing NHL cham­pion in 2010 when Crosby scored the gold medal-win­ning goal in the Vancouver Olympic fi­nal vic­tory over the United States.

Crosby was hurt by a Fri­day prac­tice hit, Sul­li­van said, with team general man­ager Jim Ruther­ford say­ing there was no timetable for Crosby’s re­turn. The NHL season opens Wed­nes­day with St. Louis at Chicago, Los An­ge­les at San Jose, Cal­gary at Edmonton and Toronto at Ot­tawa while the Pen­guins raise their ti­tle ban­ner Thurs­day in their home opener against Wash­ing­ton, a game that could see some ex­tra ten­sion and emotion.

It was a col­li­sion in the 2011 NHL Win­ter Clas­sic against vis­it­ing Wash­ing­ton that left Crosby struggling over two sea­sons to fully re­cover. He missed 101 games from that night and the end of the 2011-12 season.

Crosby, with 338 goals and 600 as­sists in 707 career games, has be­come the face of the NHL and his ab­sence for even a short time casts a pall over the NHL’s cel­e­bra­tion of the 100th an­niver­sary of its found­ing and the 50th an­niver­sary of its ex­pan­sion from six to 12 teams, which in­cluded adding the Pen­guins.

“At nearly 100 we have never been stronger, bet­ter, younger and never been faster and have never had a brighter, more di­verse fu­ture,” NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman said.

“The great game of hockey, NHL hockey, has grown and strength­ened and rep­re­sents a truly global pres­ence.” There’s still no deal for NHL play­ers to com­pete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics in South Korea al­though talks con­tinue with the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee, the NHL and the play­ers union in­volved. Play­ers want to go but the NHL wants to stop pay­ing $15 mil­lion for hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and in­sur­ance for NHL per­son­nel.

There will be a fair share of ri­vals in hot pur­suit of the Pen­guins should they fal­ter with or without Crosby. Wash­ing­ton will con­tend again be­hind Rus­sian Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s top goal scorer each of the past four sea­sons. He net­ted 50 last season but the Cap­i­tals’ cam­paign ended with a play­off loss to Pitts­burgh.

Tampa Bay, pow­ered by Steven Stamkos, lost last year’s Stan­ley Cup fi­nal to Chicago but have the speed to stay with the Pen­guins. And Chicago, up­set by St. Louis in the first round of last season’s play­offs, is go­ing for a third Stan­ley Cup in five sea­sons and fourth in eight cam­paigns. —AFP

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