As the NHL trade deadline approaches, all eyes remain on the Pittsburgh Penguins, only this time it concerns the health of Sidney Crosby rather than general manager Ray Shero's moves.
Crosby is out indefinitely after suffering a broken jaw and losing several teeth in Saturday's 2-0 win over the New York Islanders. He was hit on the mouth by a slap shot from teammate Brooks Orpik and underwent surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for his injuries.
The Penguins announced on their website Sunday there will be an update later this week on when Crosby is expected to return to the lineup. However, it is thought he will be ready for the NHL playoffs at the end of April at the latest.
Shero said Crosby, who remained in hospital on Sunday, did not show any concussion symptoms, always a concern since he battled concussion problems for more than a year after two hits in January, 2010.. He also said Crosby's jaw was not wired shut.
The Penguins could still have a big impact on the trade deadline if they can beat the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. That will just about end any hope Buffalo has of making the Eastern Conference playoffs and perhaps push general manager Darcy Regier into dismantling the core of his team.
Otherwise, deadline day could turn into a turtle derby with the likes of the San Jose Sharks' Ryan Clowe, a physical winger and pending free agent who has zero goals in 28 games this season, as one of the main attraction. The air was taken out of the trade market by Shero, who made three trades last week, landing defenceman Douglas Murray from the Sharks, forward Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars and then finishing by snatching the top prize, Jarome Iginla, away from the Boston Bruins.
Iginla's debut with the Penguins on Saturday was a bit of a letdown, although that was not his fault and the Penguins still extended their winning streak to 15 games with a 2-0 shutout of the New York Islanders. While Iginla was expected to play with Crosby, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma put him at left wing with centre Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. The letdown, of course, came 1 minute 28 seconds into the game when Crosby went down.
Even without Crosby in the Penguins lineup, they are a good bet to beat the Sabres. This means the chances of big news on Wednesday increase, although Regier, who traded veteran defenceman Jordan Leopold on Saturday to the St. Louis Blues for a couple of draft picks, remains as difficult to read as ever. Miller, who has the right to name eight teams to which he will not accept a trade, has one year left on his contract, as do Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek, which means Regier could save the major surgery for the summer. That would leave defenceman Robyn Regehr, who is a free agent July 1, as the most likely to be moved Wednesday.
"We're going to try and do some things," Regier told The Buffalo News. "The trade deadline, you can feel at times that you're going to get a lot done and you don't get anything done, and vice versa. You can feel like you're not making much headway and you end up doing more things. It's still too early, really, but we'll find out."
Regier could be hearing from Shero about a deal for Regehr. The Penguins are missing defencemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang. Letang is expected back later this week from a toe injury but Martin, who plays the same sort of game as Regehr, is gone for the rest of the regular season plus the first round of the playoffs with a broken bone in his left wrist or hand.