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Detective work: Is Sidney Crosby hurt too?

Short answer:  at one time yes, no and maybe.

Jonathan Bombulie, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton beat writer, posted something interesting in his blog that has flown under the radar.  Remember last week when the Penguins called up Mark Letestu when they called up Chris Conner, right after it was released that Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy were hurt?  Letestu spent a short time with the NHL but then he was promptly (and unceremoniously) sent back to the AHL about one day after being officially recalled.

Here's how Bombulie answered the question of "why" to the whole series of events [emphasis mine]:

First, [Letestu] was scheduled to fly with Chris Conner out of Winnipeg on Thursday but there was only one seat left on the plane, so Letestu had to fly out Friday morning. Second, the reason for Letestu's call-up was an injury involving Sidney Crosby, whose availability Friday in Columbus was in question right up to pre-game warm-ups. Crosby was fine, so Letestu was scratched and eventually headed to Toronto to meet his WBS teammates on Sunday.

Playing less than 100% is nothing new to Crosby -- he went the stretch run of the 2006-07 season (including the playoffs) while playing on a broken foot that wasn't disclosed until the Ottawa Senators eliminated the Penguins.  In 2007-08 Crosby wasn't at full strength after a high ankle sprain in January bugged him throughout the course of that season.  Then last year in 2008-09, he battled through various minor groin and knee injuries early in the season.

After the Letestu call-up, Crosby got two assists in the game against Columbus.  However, if the Pens felt they needed Letestu due to Crosby's status on Thursday Oct 29th, he obviously didn't feel right before that point.

On Wednesday the 28th, Sid recorded a hat trick against the Montreal Canadiens, taking no unusual or memorable incidents that may have caused an injury.  The Columbus game, where he was in question, he got two assists. However, in the three games since that time, Sid has zero points.  Additionally, he has nine total shots on goal in the past four games, whereas he recorded a personal season high of nine shots in the Montreal game.

Much like Malkin didn't seem himself before the team pulled the plug on him, Crosby hasn't really "seemed himself" either these past few games.  While he still seems to have good speed and acceleration, aspects of his game -- such as just seven assists in 15 games this season -- is low.  Throw out that Montreal hat-trick and he only has two goals in the past ten games, also not usual production.

At the same time, the coaches and trainers advised Malkin to take a couple weeks off to get to 100%.  If Crosby were actually injured, it's hard not to imagine that they would do the exact same for the other face of the franchise in #87.  The timing would be terrible, there's no doubt Pittsburgh would struggle even more without Crosby and Malkin, but it's only October and now November.  Stanley Cups and long playoff runs aren't made this time of year.  Keeping your best players fresh and looking out for their long term best interests are more important.

If you were wondering, Crosby felt fine enough (or was so uptight about being taken into the boards awkardly) that he fought Minnesota's Marek Zidlicky on Saturday Oct 31, a couple days after his status was in question.

So is Sidney Crosby injured?  Maybe, but obviously not badly enough to miss time.  Crosby is a fierce competitor, and like Malkin he probably wouldn't voluntarily sit out for a minor nagging injury.  But there's no reason to play him this time of year, if he's uncapable.  One thing is for sure, Pittsburgh brass felt enough uncertainty to leave an option open with Mark Letestu.  Enough uncertainty to pull Letestu on a cross-continent flight away from a team that could have used him, too.

Where there's smoke, there's not always fire; but this is worth watching, especially given Crosby's recent drought from the scoresheet.  Perhaps this was an isolated incident that has long passed.  But at this point, you never know.  The only thing for sure is that Crosby is still in the lineup.  Also, Pittsburgh demoted Letestu and with Kennedy's problems, they only currently have 12 forwards (including Crosby), which would seem to indicate there's no question on Crosby's availability.

There's hasn't been much reported on this, and a guy like Sidney Crosby doesn't often avoid the media microscope, which leads one to believe any possible injury probably isn't as serious as this detective work.