The Pittsburgh Penguins endured much of October without several regulars, including key forward Evgeni Malkin, and now might have to deal with the long-term absence of their best player.
Captain Sidney Crosby is mulling over his treatment options for a reported lingering sports hernia, according to The Athletic, and that includes surgery that would probably sideline the 32-year-old centre four to six weeks.
Crosby, who leads the team with 17 points in 17 games this season, sat out Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss to the hometown New York Rangers with an undisclosed injury after exiting the ice early in the third period on Saturday against Chicago.
"He's not an easy guy to replace with everything that he does. No one person is going to pick up that slack," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told Pittsburgh reporters Tuesday while declining to give a projected timetable for the return of the Cole Harbour, N.S., native.
"All I know is he's continuing to be evaluated and when I have further information I'll update you."
Crosby is believed to have been dealing with a sports hernia since training camp but apparently refused surgery in October because of Pittsburgh's growing list of injuries that also included defenceman Kris Letang and forwards Bryan Rust, Jared McCann, Nick Bjugstad and Alex Galchenyuk. Winger Patric Hornqvist also missed Monday's hour-long practice.
Until Tuesday, Crosby hadn't missed a game this season and he's appeared in at least 75 contests each of the past six seasons.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion took charge offensively immediately after Malkin went down with a lower-body injury that cost him 11 games, posting eight points during Pittsburgh's five-game win streak. However, Crosby's production has tailed off recently as he has scored just once in the last 10 games.
"We're going to have to try to make sure that we pull together as a team," said Sullivan of Crosby's absence. "Everybody's got to elevate their game."
The Penguins, who visit New Jersey on Friday, are fourth in the Metropolitan Division with a 10-6-2 record.