PITTSBURGH — The Penguins enter Game 6 against the New York Rangers without their captain Sidney Crosby, their No. 1 netminder Tristan Jarry and top-pairing defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
Crosby, who took an elbow to the head at Madison Square Garden in Game 5, skated individually with skills coach Ty Hennes ahead of Friday’s full-team session. However, he did not take part in the full-team skate.
Coach Mike Sullivan said the captain was officially out for Friday’s game.
“This isn’t anything that our team isn’t accustomed to,” Sullivan said. “We’ve played a fair amount of this season in these circumstances, in these situations. It’s a great opportunity for guys to step up and play more significant roles and contribute in other ways to help the team win. I think our players are excited about it. And they’ve shown an ability to rise to the occasion.”
Crosby had been dominating the series with nine points through the first five games. But late in the second period on Wednesday, as he went to play a puck near the right faceoff dot, Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba came in high. His elbow appeared to connect with Crosby’s head. The Rangers blueliner did not receive a penalty on the ice and was not subject to any supplemental discipline from the league.
Based on the morning skate, the Penguins will have to reshuffle their lineup to fill the void. Evgeni Malkin was bumped up to the top line between Crosby’s regular wingers, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust.
Historically, Malkin has found a way to elevate his game when Crosby is absent. Geno has produced 1.13 points per game in the 833 contests with Crosby. In the 148 games without him? He’s racked up 1.34 points per game.
“I think his track record speaks for itself,” Sullivan said. “He’s a terrific hockey player. I know how much he cares about helping this team win. I know how invested he is in the Pittsburgh Penguins. We expect him to be the player that he’s been for us my whole time here.”
Meanwhile, versatile forward Evan Rodrigues moved into the middle of a pseudo second line, centering Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen. On several instances, Sullivan has noted how much the club has liked Rodrigues in the middle.
“One of the reasons why we signed E-Rod was because of his versatility and our ability to move him up and down our lineup, depending on what the needs of the team are,” Sullivan said. “He’s certainly fulfilled that for us this year and then some. He’s had a real solid year for us. He’s played some of his best hockey at the center position.”