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Penguins forward Crosby won't play vs. Blue Jackets

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will not play against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Consol Energy Center after missing practice Sunday with a lower-body injury. Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Crosby would not play a day after saying his status for the game Monday was questionable.

Sullivan said Crosby's injury is not expected to be long-term.

The Penguins did not hold a Monday morning skate, so it's unknown how they will counteract Crosby's absence. Pittsburgh recalled forward Bryan Rust from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday and he will likely enter the bottom six, while center Nick Bonino moves from the third line to the second, but that isn't set in stone.

"We're going to put line combinations together that we think will have some chemistry and have complementary skill sets," Sullivan said. "I guess common sense would suggest that if you put three guys together that have played together, they might have success. But we'll put some combinations together that give us some balance and give us a chance to establish some chemistry amongst the group."

What can be assumed is center Evgeni Malkin's ascension to the first line.

"We want our top players on the ice as much as we can to help us win," Sullivan said. "We also feel as though we have some pretty good complementary players as well, and we have to keep them in order to give them a chance to have success and not keep them on the bench, so that's the balance for me.

"I think [Malkin] is playing really hard right now. I thought he had a strong couple of games. I love the passion he's playing with. He's all-in. He's totally invested in this thing."

Though Crosby has struggled at times this season, Malkin has comparatively flourished despite having a less than stellar season by his standards. Crosby has three assists in his past two games but has failed to score a goal in 17 of his past 20 and is averaging .69 points per game, which is .40 lower than his career-low set last season.

Malkin scored his seventh power-play goal, and Penguins-leading 15th goal, in a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, which is one goal more than Crosby's six.

When Crosby has missed time in the past, Malkin has routinely thrived. During the 2011-12 season, when Crosby missed 60 games with a concussion, Malkin had his lone 50-goal season and scored 109 points, the second highest total of his career.

Despite that, Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella isn't concerned with Malkin.

"I have enough concerns about our guys," Tortorella said. "He's a [heck] of a player, but we're not game-planning, and I really don't know what goes on as far as that happens. That's [their] organization. There's enough we have to worry about with the Columbus Blue Jackets and we're focused on our team."

Tortorella also hasn't decided how the Blue Jackets will match up against the Penguins.

"I don't get too locked into the matchups sometimes," Tortorella said. "It's just within the momentums of games and matches when I might need it, but we're just going to try to simplify things and try to play the right way. I thought we did that for a number of minutes the other night and then we lost ourselves. So, I think we need to be real consistent tonight because I think it's going to be a very hard team to play against. They've had some struggles. They want to leave here too, on a break, with a win."

The Penguins are searching for their first win under Sullivan after losing their first four games of his tenure. Sullivan said, even without Crosby, he expects Pittsburgh to respond from adversity with a strong performance.

"We're going to play hard. We're going to play between the whistles," Sullivan said. "We're not going to get deterred from the type of game we have to play to give our team the best chance to win. I think that's the most important message. We're certainly going to play with emotion. We're going to play with energy. We're going to push back, but we're going to do it the right way."

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