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Bus Crash Headlines Rough Month For Penguins

Sarah Sotoodeh |
February 14, 2011 | 11:52 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Sidney Crosby's concussion has left the Penguins without their star.
Sidney Crosby's concussion has left the Penguins without their star.
February hasn’t been kind to the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Of the eight games this month, the Penguins have lost four.  Their current stats are 35 wins and 19 losses.  Not as bad as some teams, but still, the Penguins are known as a winning team.   Just look at their Stanley Cup and their talented pool of players.

The injury-plagued Penguins are struggling with a lack of offense. The list of injured players is staggering. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby tops the IR list with a concussion, while Evengi Malkin is out for the season with a torn MCL and ACL.  Then there’s Mark Letestu (lower body), Mike Comrie (hip), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Dustin Jeffrey (lower body), Arron Asham (upper body) and Eric Tangradi (concussion).

Matt Cooke is also out of the lineup, finishing up a four-game suspension. 

“With or without those guys in the lineup, we are the Pittsburgh Penguins," Max Talbot told a Penguins reporter. "We shouldn’t be satisfied with the way we played.”
Crosby’s pivotal offensive role for the Penguins has left a huge void on the ice.  Add to that the other injured key players and the odds are very much against the team.

In the past, the Penguins have had 12-game winning streaks.   Now, each game is touch-and-go.  Their lack of offense is painfully obvious.  Jordan Staal’s effort to score has been admirable, as seen in his winning goal in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 10. 

Staal was out for the first 39 games of the season with a broken right hand and before that, a foot infection.

“We have to find ways to win games and guys that are filling those roles like myself and other players, we all need to step up our game," he told NHL.com. "Everyone on the team needs to elevate their game if we want to win games."

The Penguins' weekend in New York was a disaster.  They gave up 14 goals in just two games—nine in the Islanders game, five in the Rangers game.  But the goal count was not the biggest story—it was the fights.

The feud started two weeks ago. 

Penguins goalkeeper Brent Johnson and Islanders goalkeeper Rick DiPietro were involved in the first goalie fight in seven years. Johnson’s knockout punch fractured several bones in DiPietro’s face.

Apparently the Islanders had not forgotten the fight and were looking to get revenge in New York. What they did during the game was questionable.  Called ugly and unsportsmanlike, the Islanders initiated multiple fights.  The Friday game looked more like a boxing match than a professional hockey game.

At one point, Micheal Haley stopped mid-fight with Talbot and went after Johnson.  Haley must have had amnesia because DiPietro was the one who initiated the goalie fight two weeks ago.  However, Haley convieniently ignored that fact as he started throwing punches.

“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey.  It was a travesty," Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux said in a statement released over the weekend. "It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that."

The Penguins did play a role in the multiple fights but for the most part they were just defending themselves (especially Talbot).

The NHL’s Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations announced that Eric Godard will serve a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench and engaging in a fight during the game.  

Godard left the bench to help his teammate Johnson when Haley went after him.

The Penguins' bad luck has followed them off the ice too.  While on the way to Madison Square Gardens on Saturday, their bus struck another car.  The players were decked out in all of their hockey gear (but no skates) and had to hail cabs to make it to practice.

If the Penguins can put the disastrous New York weekend behind them and up their offense, they can start building the team’s confidence back up. 

Time will tell how the Penguins fare.  But it will give the many injured players an opportunity to heal.

“Everybody in this dressing room has a role, everybody takes pride in playing the right way and we should be able to win some hockey games,” Talbot said.

To reach Sarah Sotoodeh, click here.



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