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Sid's scoring missed, but Pens have vets to fill void

by Chris Adamski /

PITTSBURGH -- During the Pittsburgh Penguins' first practice since Sidney Crosby was lost for an indefinite period of time because of a broken jaw, it was learned the player who will replace the National Hockey League scoring leader as their first-line center is Tyler Kennedy.

It was also learned there is no shortage of players who will replace Crosby's role as team leader.

Former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla's first practice with the Penguins was overshadowed by the news that Pittsburgh's captain was not on the Consol Energy Center ice.

"It's definitely terrible to lose Sid," said Iginla, who made his Penguins game debut during the same Saturday game in which Crosby was struck with a puck in his mouth about 90 seconds in. "I was really looking forward to being in the same locker room with him, playing on the same team and stuff.

"Hopefully he'll be back sooner than they say and be back for the playoffs and he'll be flying."

Multiple players said that over the previous 24 hours they had visited Crosby at a hospital a few miles down Forbes Avenue from Consol Energy Center, where Pittsburgh has won 12 in a row. The Penguins' overall 15-game winning streak is tied for the second-longest in NHL history.


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If Pittsburgh is to tie or break its own franchise record of 17 straight wins, it'll have to do it without the League scoring leader. Crosby's 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists) are 10 more than second-place Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kennedy won't be asked to provide that kind of production as he takes over Crosby's spot between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis on what has been the NHL's highest-scoring line this season.

A right wing throughout the vast majority of his NHL career, Kennedy was a center in juniors. Coach Dan Bylsma said that as soon as Crosby went down Saturday, he immediately pictured Kennedy taking his place. That was interesting because upon the acquisitions of Iginla and former Dallas Stars wing Brenden Morrow this week, Kennedy was demoted from the third line to the fourth unit.

"I just have to be good in my own end," Kennedy said. "I think that's the biggest thing Dan's looking for, make sure I'm reliable in my own end and make sure we don't get scored on."

Kennedy said Saturday was his most extended time at center since he became a pro. Bylsma did allow that Dustin Jeffrey also would see some time between Kunitz and Dupuis, particularly for a big faceoff.

"I feel pretty good at center; I played it in juniors, but it's still a challenge when you're going against the best guys in the world," Kennedy said.

"It's a little more work going back and protecting the net and getting pucks down low. I've got two good linemates who are going to help me a lot, so I'm looking forward to it."

Kunitz's 20 goals are tied for third in the League, and his 44 points also rank third. Dupuis is second in the NHL to Stamkos in even-strength goals with 15.

Kennedy's lone faceoff win in his center "debut" Saturday led to Matt Cooke's winning goal.

"Yes, it was an audition," Bylsma said of Kennedy as a top-line center Saturday. "It'll certainly stay in my mind how he did in the Islander game going forward."

Replacing Crosby's tangible on-ice production will be difficult -- replacing his respected leadership should prove easier. Former captains Iginla and Morrow were added in the past week, making for 12 players on the roster who have at least nine seasons of NHL experience.

Eleven players are at least 32 years old.

"I don't think there's a need to look at that right now in terms of filling a (leadership) void or any of that type of talk," Bylsma said of playing without Crosby. "There's a lot of good players in that room and a lot of leadership in that room. That was evident before and will be going forward."

General manager Ray Shero repeatedly mentioned intangibles when discussing why he traded for Morrow and Iginla (as well as veteran defenseman Douglas Murray) last week. And even though they are about a decade older than Crosby, Iginla and Morrow both said they would happily defer to their 2010 Team Canada Olympic teammate.

Now, with Crosby out, their respected leadership could come to the forefront.

"Coming in here, you don't want to change anything about who you are -- there's a reason you were brought in here." -- Brenden Morrow

"Coming in here, you don't want to change anything about who you are -- there's a reason you were brought in here," Morrow said. "I think both of us want to do the things we do, say the things we say. This locker room, I think, is in pretty good order right now. Even with Sid being gone, the veteran guys they've got here will handle it. But if something arises or something we feel needs to be said or done, I don't think either of us will shy away from it."

"This team, we have lots of leadership," Iginla said. "They've been doing a lot of great things for a long time and winning. They're on a real roll and it's different guys … who have stepped up.

"I'm going to just play hard and compete on the ice and battle and try to fit in. They've got lots of leadership in here, and getting Geno (Malkin) back is huge, too, for the group.

"It's a big hole, not having Sid in. But these guys, they've been battling for a while and finding ways to win."

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