When Penguins star Sidney Crosby didn’t return to Saturday’s game against the Islanders after getting struck in the mouth by a puck, it didn’t bode well for his immediate recovery.
One day later, we still don’t know much about Crosby’s prognosis, except that he underwent surgery to repair a broken jaw and several displaced teeth. The Penguins revealed that news Sunday on their team website, adding that the timetable for his return is indefinite.
A broken jaw can take up to two months to fully repair itself, but athletes can return to action much sooner than that depending on pain tolerance and the extent of the fracture(s). According to the Penguins, Crosby is scheduled for further dental work later in the week, so it would be surprising if he were to return to practice in the next few days.
Losing the NHL’s leading scorer – Crosby has a 10-point lead on nearest competitor Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay – will clearly hinder the Penguins offense. However, the recent trade additions of Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow, plus the return to action of the mended Evgeni Malkin, will help mitigate the indefinite absence of Crosby.
Nonetheless, the broken jaw marks another frustrating medical setback for Crosby, whose 15 goals and 41 assists have him on track for his second scoring title and MVP award. He would likely still be the favorite for the latter if he misses the rest of the regular season, as his elite production has helped the Penguins to the best record in the Eastern Conference, in addition to a one-point lead over Chicago for the overall NHL lead.
The Penguins are in prime position due to their current 15-game winning streak, which marked the first time in league history that a team was perfect in a calendar month that included more than 10 games played. They are two wins shy of matching the all-time NHL record for consecutive victories, which was set by the 1992-93 Penguins.
Pittsburgh will re-take the Consol Energy Center ice Tuesday night when Buffalo comes to town. If the Penguins can grab a win then, they will attempt to tie the record Wednesday in New York against the Rangers.
They’ll likely be without Crosby for those potentially historic games, in addition to top defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Letang is out at least for the next week with a broken toe while Martin was diagnosed with a broken hand, which will probably keep him away from the ice for a month or more.
At any rate, the Penguins will be at less than full strength for the foreseeable future. There is hope for most of the wounded to be back before the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the supporting players will have to carry more of the load if their run at history is to continue.
UPDATE (5:30 p.m.): The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Shelly Anderson reports that Crosby’s surgery did not involve any wiring of the jaw, although he is on a soft-food diet for the time being. Penguins general manager Ray Shero told Anderson that Crosby is “up and around and in good spirits.”
Shero also confirmed that Martin had successful surgery on his left hand this weekend.