Life Without Sid

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a familiar place: dealing with not having a superstar center in the lineup. We look at some keys to how they can survive without the NHL's leading scorer.

Sidney Crosby is back to a place the Penguins have seen too often over the past few years: the injured list. But as Ray Shero said yesterday, “It’s only been 24 hours. We’ll get through this and monitor him over the next few days. It’s good to see him up and about and doing OK.”

As the Penguins have said, Crosby is listed as out "indefinitely" not necessarily because he may be out for an extended period, but because at this point it's just too early to know what his exact timetable may be for recovery.

That won't help the Penguins as they go for their 16th straight win tomorrow night against Buffalo, here are some keys to stabilize without Sid, again.

Geno time

Evgeni Malkin is back from his shoulder injury, and it's a good thing, because the Penguins instantly have a scoring champion caliber #1 center to plug the whole of Crosby's absence. Malkin has had an uneven 2013 NHL season, ridden with injuries of his own that hasn't allowed him to get on track. And then there's James Neal's production grinding to a halt without Malkin (0 goals, 1 assist in the recent eight games Malkin missed). So when the Pens get Malkin back, they get the production of a 40-goal-point-er-game winger back too. Not bad.

Finding chemistry

New additions Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow have barely had time to learn the names of their new teammates, let alone the ins and outs of Dan Bylsma's systems and the more complex aspects of fitting into an NHL team. Iginla, until this morning, hasn't even had a practice. These guys are vets and pros, they ought to catch on quickly playing the easiest position out there of winger. But how they will fit in on the ice with their new team will go a long way in easing the pain of Crosby's loss.

Continued special teams success

Defensively the Pens have been great lately, starting with their goaltending and defense as well as the penalty kill. In the last eight games, the Pens have only surrendered two power-play goals against. Granted, they had shutouts in four of those games, but for what's been a PK unit in the bottom-third of the league for most of the season, an increase in successful penalty kills will keep the Pens in more games. Obvious, but true. Guys like Mark Eaton, Brooks Orpik, Douglas Murray, Craig Adams and Matt Cooke aren't going to score in many (if any) games, but here's an area the whole team can pitch in.

Getting lucky on injuries

Marc-Andre Fleury probably dodged a bullet with a head injury, it appears he is alright and should play in one of the Tuesday/Wednesday back to back games. The team's top defenseman Kris Letang is skating before practice today, a step bringing him closer to re-joining the lineup. Paul Martin (surgery for broken bone in hand) could be back at the start of the playoffs. Getting these key players back in the lineup soon will help. Hopefully no other key elements join Crosby on the sidelines.

Sutter stepping up

With Morrow, Iginla, Neal (18 goals), Chris Kunitz (20 goals, 44 points) and Pascal Dupuis (17 goals) the Penguins might for once have more firepower on the wings than at center, for the first time ever. This is going to give Brandon Sutter and Dustin Jeffrey opportunities to play with these more skilled linemates and hopefully be able to take advantage of that and turn it into points. Obviously Crosby is special and it's impossible to expect Sutter to elevate Kunitz/Dupuis like #87 has done this year, but with a team in a 15-game winning streak groove, all they have to do is keep the ball rolling.

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