Crosby wore one of the Pens' green St. Patrick’s Day tribute jerseys in warmup but pulled out of the game at the last minute for undisclosed reasons.
The Penguins managed to scratch out Crosby’s name and replace him with Craig Adams on the scoresheet just before the game started, so they still started the game with a full roster.
That didn’t last long.
Evgeni Malkin left the ice early after taking a hit along the boards from Chris Kelly on his first shift. The hit was completely clean and actually pretty tame, but it must’ve caught Malkin just right to set something off.
Kelly hit Malkin more or less hip-to-hip along the boards after Malkin cycled the puck low. Kelly is a few inches shorter than Malkin and the hit didn’t go perfectly joint-to-joint, so Malkin’s right thigh may have taken a bit of the blow.
Malkin left the ice and tried to fight through it on the bench. He played a few more shifts before calling it quits after skating for 4:15 of ice time.
The Penguins are a tight-lipped organization when it comes to injuries, and whatever happened to their two superstars remains a closely-guarded secret.
Coach Mike Johnston said Crosby “wasn’t feeling well” and was held back on the advice of the team’s doctors. “I would say it’s not an injury, he didn’t get himself injured in warmup,” Johnston said. “I thought he was great at our meeting, seemed fine, but somewhere between then and the end of warmup when he came into the dressing room, he went to see the trainers and they said go see the doctor.
“From there, a decision was made that hey, we’re just going to keep him out.”
As for Malkin, Johnston offered little insight into the nature of the injury.
“I saw the hit in the game and then he tried to come back after that and just couldn’t come back,” Johnston said.
In other words, “…”
Johnston said both players will be question marks for the Pens’ next game.
Pittsburgh is safe in a playoff spot and can take its time with Crosby or Malkin if they need a few maintenance days. The last thing they need is for one or both of their stars to go down with an injury before the playoffs.
Crosby and Malkin have missed five games each this season.