The Pens will be without their captain as they look to snap a five-game losing streak tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, as head coach Mike Sullivan said Sidney Crosby will miss the matchup with a lower-body injury.
“I don’t believe it’s a long-term thing,” Sullivan said. “The hope is that with the (four-day) break coming up, that he’ll have a chance to recover.”
This will be the first game Crosby has missed this year. With him and Kris Letang (upper-body) out, the Pens are now missing two of their top-four leading scorers.
The Pens did not hold a morning skate, so we weren’t able to see any potential line combinations. All Sullivan would say in that regard is that he will be looking to put guys together who they believe will have chemistry along with complementary skill sets.
For what it’s worth, here’s the lines the Pens used in practice on Sunday before Bryan Rust got recalled to Pittsburgh later that afternoon…
MURRAY STARTS The one lineup note Sullivan did provide was his starting goaltender. When I asked him who would be in net, he told me Matt Murray will get the nod tonight over Jeff Zatkoff.
Murray, 21, made his NHL debut in the Pens’ 2-1 loss to Carolina on Saturday. After the Pens took three penalties in the first 15 minutes and the Hurricanes converted two of those power plays, Murray rebounded to stop the final 18 shots he saw and kept his team in the game.
“Matt’s going to play tonight,” Sullivan said of the reigning AHL goaltender and rookie of the year. “I thought he really settled into the game the other night and I really liked what I saw.”
With both teams’ No. 1 netminders sidelined – Marc-Andre Fleury has missed the last three games with a concussion and Sergei Bobrovsky has missed six games with a groin injury – Murray will be going up against another rookie goaltender in Joonas Korpisalo. The two of them combined have just four NHL games of experience.
TEACHER VS. STUDENT The two men behind the benches tonight have a long history together. Sullivan joined John Tortorella’s staff as an assistant coach back in 2007 and spent seven years with the current Blue Jackets head coach in Tampa Bay, NY Rangers and Vancouver.
“I learned a lot from ‘Torts’ over the years coaching with him,” Sullivan said. “I think he’s a terrific hockey coach. I would say that our styles are very different because we’re two very different people. Having said that, I really admire his preparation, his organizational skills, his clarity of his convictions and how he wants to play and how he interacts with his players. I’ve grown to admire that over the years in watching him.”
Tortorella said the two of them have talked since Sullivan was named head coach of the Pens on Dec. 12.
“We’re very close friends and he’s a tremendous coach,” Tortorella said. “I think he’s going to help that organization. I think Sully’s a good man and a good coach, but when the puck drops at 7 o’ clock I really don’t care. It’s about trying to win the game and I’m sure he feels the same way. For both of us I’m sure it’s about trying to get your team to play the right way.”
Tortorella was right, as Sullivan echoed the same sentiments down the hallway.
“It’s about the players, it’s not about us,” Sullivan said. “This is an important game for our team. We’re going to do everything we can to try to win this game tonight. We’re trying to get some traction here. We’re trying to establish some momentum in moving this thing in the right direction.
“I think we made strides the last game we played. We didn’t get the result. But I think we made strides. It’s important for us to get on the other side of that and get some results. So for me, that’s what this game is about tonight. We’ve really got to come with the energy and enthusiasm and inspiration and the focus to play the way we need to play in order to get the result.”
GAME INFO Where: CONSOL Energy Center When: 7 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop