PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This morning, the Penguins made it official – Sidney Crosby will miss a minimum of six weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery to repair a core muscle injury.
Crosby has been nothing short of an elite driver of offense so far this season.
In 17 games, Crosby has five goals and 12 assists for 17 points. Producing at exactly a point-per-game pace.
Crosby joins Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist on the injured list.
This means the Penguins depth will be tested for the foreseeable future.
Here are five players that will have to step up in the absence of the captain.
It’s obvious, without their captain, the alternate captain Evgeni Malkin needs to carry the load offensively.
Malkin was activated off the injured reserve after being hurt in the second game of the regular season. He returned on November 2 against the Oilers.
In his last five games, Malkin has one goal and five assists for six points.
However, Malkin is known to shine without Sidney Crosby in the lineup.
In 121 regular-season games without Crosby, Malkin has 66 goals and 161 points, good for 1.33 points-per-game, compared to 1.15 with Sid.
One of Malkin’s best seasons came in 2011-2012 while Crosby was sidelined most of the season battling a concussion. Malkin scored 50 goals, added 59 assists for 109 points in 75 games.
With Crosby out until at least the end of December, Malkin needs to shine.
Jared McCann has enjoyed a lot of success as a Penguin.
So far this season, McCann has scored six goals, five assists for 11 points in 16 games. He set career-highs last season in goals with 19 and points with 35.
He is well on his way to topping that this year.
McCann has been a bit of a utility forward playing on both the wing and at center.
With Crosby out of the lineup, McCann is likely going to be tasked with becoming the Penguins temporary second-line center.
The 23-year-old is currently on a four-game point streak, scoring two goals and four assists.
McCann is currently on pace for a 56-point season which would shatter his career-high of 28, set in 2017-2018.
For the Penguins to find success without Crosby, McCann has to add to the scoring depth down the middle.
Galchenyuk was acquired over the summer in exchange for Phil Kessel, arguable one of the best pure scorers in the National Hockey League.
Kessel set a career-high in points in 2017-2018 with 92 and followed that up with 82 points in 2018-2019, matching a previous career-high set in 2011-2012.
Even without Crosby, the expectations on Galchenyuk are high.
The early returns have not been promising.
So far, through nine games and an injury, Galchenyuk has only produced three assists.
He will be tasked with playing on Evgeni Malkin’s wing and with that comes an expectation of production.
The 2012 third overall pick is going to need to get his offensive game going over the next few weeks.
Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford inked Brandon Tanev to a six-year, $3.5 million contract on July 1.
So far this season Tanev has three goals and four assists in 18 games played.
When healthy, these are good numbers for a middle-six depth forward.
Now with the likes of Crosby and Hornqvist hurt and out of the lineup, Tanev will inevitably move up the lineup in an elevated role.
The left-winger has shown a penchant for drawing penalties and being a relentless forechecker, now a few goals will certainly show what kind of depth the Penguins have at forward.
When elite offensive talent isn’t available in the lineup, it can fall to the defense and goaltending to fill the void.
In 15 games started this season, Matt Murray has posted a 9-3-2 record and a .914 save percentage and a shutout.
Since returning from injury last season, Murray has been incredibly steady between the pipes.
With a point-per-game player out of the lineup, keeping the puck out of the net becomes even more important.
It would cure a lot of what ails the Penguins right now with injuries on offense to have a rock-solid goaltender in net.
The Penguins will play the New Jersey Devils on the road Friday night then return home Saturday night and face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs.