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Crosby believes in Penguins even with latest injury to McCann

Pittsburgh has won three straight, could be missing five forwards against Avalanche

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby is not wavering in his belief that the Pittsburgh Penguins will continue to play well despite a rash of injuries to their forwards, the latest sustained by Jared McCann, who is day to day with a lower-body issue.

McCann did not practice Tuesday and could miss Pittsburgh's next game against the Colorado Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN). Forwards Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk and Bryan Rust are on injured reserve and remain out of the Penguins lineup.

"I think you've seen our urgency and desperation," Crosby said. "I think that's probably gone up a bit considering we have guys out, and the importance of guys all chipping in. The guys who have been called in to fill roles have done a great job. We're working as a team. We do that, we're a tough team to play against."

The Penguins have won all three games since Galchenyuk joined Malkin, Bjugstad and Rust on the sidelines with a lower-body injury, outscoring their opponents 16-7.

Pittsburgh defeated the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on Oct. 10 in their first game without those four. Then they scored seven goals in each game of a road back-to-back, winning 7-4 against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday and 7-2 against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

Crosby has done his part in keeping the Penguins on track. During a six-game point streak to start the season, Crosby leads Pittsburgh with 10 points (three goals, seven assists), and he has two points in each of its three straight wins. He and forward Jake Guentzel, who has four goals in the past three games, remain one of the more potent combinations in the NHL.

Video: PIT@WPG: Guentzel, Lafferty score 41 seconds apart

Defenseman Kris Letang also has at least one point in each game and is second on the Penguins with eight points (two goals, six assists). He had two assists Sunday to reach 501 NHL points (114 goals, 387 assists), becoming the first Penguins defenseman to have at least 500.

But Crosby and Letang also produced before the winning streak. The difference has come further down the lineup, where rookie forward Sam Lafferty has exceeded expectations on the fourth line.

Lafferty, who grew up less than 100 miles east of Pittsburgh in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, was held without a point in his first two games after making his NHL debut Oct. 8. In two games since, he has three goals and two assists.

"All the guys have been great," Lafferty said. "They've made it so easy on all of us. ... I can kind of just go all out and stay within the flow of the game."

Sullivan said Lafferty could be used at second-line center if McCann is unable to play Wednesday.

"I think he's shown everybody his ability to play at this level," Sullivan said. "He can really skate. He's got a good 200-foot game. ... I'm not saying we're going to go that route, but [Lafferty playing second-line center] is certainly an option."

Zach Aston-Reese, who has moved from the fourth line to left wing on the third because of the injuries, has had similar success. He had two goals and an assist Sunday after having an assist against Minnesota on Saturday.

Aston-Reese, in his third season with the Penguins, credited Crosby and other veterans with creating an environment that allows younger forwards in the bottom-six to thrive.

"You hear some stories that [Crosby] says about [Bill Guerin], playing with [Mark Recchi] and guys like that," Aston-Reese said. "You just look at the last five or six years, college guys that have come up and done well. It's not a coincidence or whatever.

"It's because those guys welcomed them in and know that it's going to be more than just the original 18 guys on the roster to win."

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