The most disturbing part about the news that Sidney Crosby will miss the next two Pittsburgh Penguins games – for now, as a precaution – is the knowledge that when Crosby's concussion issues started almost a year ago, they were originally couched as minor too. He ended up missing almost 11 months.
With Crosby, or for anyone with a concussion history, you just never know how serious it can be, and in Crosby's case, you probably will never know.
Things could be just as the Penguins say they are; the team is being ultracautious with Crosby's health as a prudent measure. Or it could be that the bump that Crosby took from teammate Chris Kunitz in Monday night's loss to the Boston Bruins jarred him worse than expected and that his problems could be starting anew. Sometimes, symptoms do not set in until a day or more after a collision.
The Penguins say it is the former, a case of ensuring that their star attraction is handled as intelligently as possible, given his concussion history. In a statement posted on the Penguins' website Monday, general manager Ray Shero was adamant that tests conducted on Crosby showed "no problems," a veiled reference to the extensive problems he did have recovering from concussion-like symptoms the last time around.
"Sidney took a hard hit during our game against Boston Monday night and wasn't feeling 100 per cent," Shero said. "He saw Dr. Micky Collins of [University of Pittsburgh Medical Center]today and took an ImPACT test, which showed no problems. However, we all think it's best that he sits out the next two games as a precaution."
Presumably one can give the Penguins the benefit of the doubt here, given that they are far more aware of concussion protocols now than they were back in January, after Crosby took a blow to the head from David Steckel, then with the Washington Capitals, in the NHL's showcase event, the Winter Classic. Crosby finished that game and was in the lineup a few days later when a hit by the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman put him out indefinitely.
After an extended convalescence, Crosby returned to action last month against the New York Islanders and rattled off four points in his first game. Altogether, he has 12 points in eight games since returning to the lineup.
And now this. The injury will keep him out of games against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Islanders. If two games is enough for Crosby to feel better again, then he will return to play next Tuesday, at home, against the Detroit Red Wings.
But concussions are tricky, and for proof, consider the case of Penguins defenceman Kris Letang. He was officially diagnosed with a concussion last week and pulled from the Pittsburgh lineup following a blow to the head from the Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty, who was subsequently suspended for three games. Of course, before Letang was pushed to the sidelines, he returned to play in that same game, and scored the winner to boot.
It was the same with Crosby. He left Monday's game briefly, but didn't miss a shift, and afterward, dismissed the injury as a stinger, nothing to worry about. For Crosby's sake, for the sake of his team, his fans and the league as a whole, let's hope he's right.