Courtesy of Point Park University

Crosby makes it back onto the ice … briefly


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Sidney Crosby -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

If this had been a game, it would have been one of the shortest, slowest shifts of Sidney Crosby's career.

Under the circumstances, though, it probably was one of the most encouraging things that could have happened for his teammates and coaches.

About an hour before the Penguins practiced at PPG Paints Arena Sunday, Crosby stepped onto the ice near the home team's bench, glided toward the goal line, then turned around and returned to the bench, all with athletic trainer Chris Stewart watching him.

It took no more than 10 seconds, tops.

That, however, was long enough to establish that the medical professionals had no reason to believe that Crosby had sustained a fracture when he was struck by a Marco Scandella shot on or near his foot during the first period of the Penguins' preseason finale against the Sabres Saturday.

Crosby, who did not appear to be in pain, returned to the locker room after his brief twirl on the ice and did not participate in the Penguins' subsequent workout, but Mike Sullivan said Crosby sat out the practice for "precautionary reasons."

He described him as "day-to-day" and added that "his status is encouraging."

Crosby's availability for the regular-season opener Thursday against Buffalo at PPG Paints Arena has not been announced, and perhaps has not yet been determined.

However, it certainly appears to be more promising than that of right winger Bryan Rust, who was struck in the hand by a Colin Miller shot while killing a penalty late in the third period Saturday.

Rust went directly to the locker room and did not return. Sullivan said Sunday that Rust "is still being evaluated," which suggests that swelling might still be an issue.

The prognosis is no more clear for forward Alex Galchenyuk, who is recovering from an unspecified lower-body injury. Sullivan said that Galchenyuk, who had been playing on Evgeni Malkin's line, had an off-ice workout Sunday and is scheduled to skate again Monday, and that his status "is still day-to-day."

With half of their top-six forwards unavailable, at least temporarily, the Penguins will have to overhaul the makeup of their forward lines. One move Sunday was placing winger Zach Aston-Reese with Malkin, who might be encouraged to play more of a north-south game with a linemate like Aston-Reese.

"(Aston-Reese) is a straight-line player," Sullivan said. "He's good in the battle areas. He goes to the net, so he's pretty good at the net front and he has the ability to make plays."

Jared McCann, who started the Buffalo game on the wing on the No. 3 line, shifted to center between Jake Guentzel and Brandon Tanev when Crosby was injured.

"He's a fun player to play with," Guentzel said. "Plays hard and uses his speed a lot. Really smart player, and we've had success (together) so far."

Perhaps, but Guentzel readily acknowledges the impact that being without a player of Crosby's caliber could have.

"If you lose a player like that, (replacing him) has to be by committee," he said. "Because he's such a good player and does everything for us."

Nonetheless, the Penguins understand that players are going to get hurt, which means personnel combinations will have to be reconfigured at times.

"Injuries are part of the game," Sullivan said. "We have to adjust. That's where the versatility that our group has comes into play, and the depth of our group. Is it disruptive? To an extent. But every team deals with it."

Also Sunday:

• Teams have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to be down to 23 or fewer players on their major-league roster, and to be at or under the salary-cap ceiling of $81.5 million. The Penguins have to make moves to get into compliance with both limits, and trading defenseman Jack Johnson -- the subject of rampant speculation for months -- is one way they could make progress toward both objectives. Johnson, though, said after practice that he has heard nothing about being included in any possible deals. "There aren't any easy decisions and there's a cap crunch -- we're all aware of it -- but as far as my future here, no one has said anything to me, one way or the other," Johnson said.

• Malkin had a poor game against the Sabres Saturday, but generally had a strong training camp and seems optimistic that he'll have a good season. "I feel okay," he said. "My (conditioning) is good. We still work every day. I'll be fine. I believe (in) myself. I'm all right. I'm not nervous. ... I worked hard all summer. I know how to play. It's not my first year."

• Forward Adam Johnson was assigned to the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre. Earlier, he had an on-ice session with goalies Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith before the team's practice, then stayed on for the first 25 minutes of that workout.

• Goalie Matt Murray was shaken up when he was struck in the throat by a shot during practice. He skated to the bench and removed his mask, glove and blocker while consulting with athletic trainer Patrick Steidle. Murray returned to his net a minute or so later, however, and finished the practice with no apparent difficulty.

• Although players will have Monday off, the coaches and front office figure to be busy then with personnel and salary-cap issues.

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