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Inside Scoop: Pens-Rangers

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

NEW YORK CITY - The Penguins are facing their toughest test yet on the injury front with Sidney Crosby out for tonight's game with a lower-body injury.

It's certainly not an ideal situation for the Penguins to be without their captain, leader and the best player in the world. But it's the hand they've been dealt, and they're going to have to just, well, deal with it.

"I'm stating the obvious when I say he's a guy that's next to impossible to replace with everything that he does for our team both in the locker room and on the ice," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's tough to replace. He is a generational talent. But having said that, we still believe we have what it takes to win. That's how we have to look at it. We're going to try to control what we can control and we really can't dwell or focus on the things that we can't."

One of the most important things the team can control is its mindset, which is a next-man-up mentality that has served them well through all the adversity they've already faced in this young season.

"We believe we have depth within our roster and our organization," Sullivan said. "We believe we have capable people in our lineup. When someone goes down with an injury, it provides an opportunity for others to step up. That's how we have to look at it. Guys have to take advantage of and maximize those opportunities. 

"And really, it's about playing together as a team. I think that's what we've done best. Sometimes when you face the types of injuries that we have in this early part of the season, it gives us an opportunity to rally around it a little bit. That's something we've discussed with our players."

When asked if Crosby would be able to play on Friday in New Jersey, Sullivan had this to say: "Right now our focus is on the game tonight and he is out tonight."

- One trickle-down effect of Crosby's injury is Jared McCann moving into his spot between Alex Galchenyuk and Jake Guentzel, which Sam Kasan covered on Monday.

Another trickle-down effect is Dominik Simon, who had played with Crosby and Guentzel for a long time before the lines were switched on Saturday against Chicago, slotting in next to Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust.

"Another great player, so I'm really excited for it," Simon said of playing with Malkin. "We played together at the end of the last game and it felt really good, so just going to get ready for it and do my best to help the line."

- With Crosby out, rookie forward Sam Lafferty will slot back into the lineup after being recalled last Tuesday. 

"It's good to be back," he said. "It was a pretty quick turnaround. But great to be here."

Lafferty was sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Oct. 31 after a 10-game stint with Pittsburgh, where he recorded three goals, three assists and six points with a plus-four rating.

Lafferty played two games with WBS, scoring once, before getting recalled back to Pittsburgh on Nov. 5. This time around, he feels much more comfortable both on the ice and off the ice, and his confidence level is "definitely pretty high."

"I showed myself what I can do here," he said. "I'm on a really good line tonight, so I just want to play to my strengths and keep it simple."

During Monday's practice, Lafferty slotted in at right wing on a line with Dominik Kahun and Nick Bjugstad.

"I'm just going to try and use my speed and put pressure on the Rangers and just play a hard, simple game," said Lafferty, who will be playing in the World's Most Famous Arena for the first time tonight.

- Sullivan confirmed that Matt Murray will start in goal, which is no surprise considering the success he has had against the Rangers. The Penguins netminder is 6-0-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage in seven career games against New York. Five of those games have come on the road, where he is 5-0-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

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