Friday's NHL: Pens' star Crosby: still no timetable for return from injury
Cranberry Township, Pa. — Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby still isn't sure when he will be cleared to return after he had left wrist surgery last month.
Crosby skated with his teammates for more than an hour Friday in the latest step in his recovery from surgery in early September. The team announced at the time of the procedure that Crosby would miss a minimum of six weeks. The six-week mark passed on Wednesday with Crosby still inching his way back.
The three-time Stanley Cup winner has been dealing with pain in the wrist off and on since shortly after the 2014 Olympics. He initially hoped offseason rest would give it time to heal properly, a strategy that worked for him during previous summers. But as training camp for the 2021-22 season loomed with symptoms still lingering, he opted to have surgery in hopes of fixing the problem for good.
“So I think we all felt like it was something I wouldn’t have got through this season if I didn’t take care of it,” Crosby said. "Unfortunately end up missing some time here early, but I guess the other side of that was missing a lot more games, probably, in the middle of the year.”
Crosby called surgery the “last resort,” but felt it became unavoidable this time around. He said the procedure was different from the arthroscopic surgery he had on the wrist on Aug. 31, 2020.
“It was something I was able to manage (for years),” he said. "There were points where it bugged me more than others. You just get used to it. ... It became more and more of a factor last year and then into the summer. Just had to take care of it.”
The next part of Crosby's recovery will be figuring out when the wrist is good enough to handle a heavy load of faceoffs. He typically takes 20 to 25 a game, a movement that can put a lot of pressure on the joint.
“I haven’t really had any force, whether it’s faceoff, lifting sticks ... battling, pushing around,” he said. "Those are things I haven’t been able to do. When I’m able to do that comfortably or do it without pain or being able to manage those things, I think that’ll be a big step.”
Crosby, who turned 34 in August, does not expect to need surgery on the wrist again.
The Penguins have gotten off to a solid start without Crosby and longtime star Evgeni Malkin, who is recovering from knee surgery. The Penguins are 2-0-2 heading into Saturday night's visit from Toronto.
“We’re just, I mean everyone is playing the same way,” Crosby said. "Every line that goes out there over the boards is playing hard. We’re playing fast. We’re not giving teams a lot of time and space.”
Crosby and Malkin are hardly the only Penguins players banged up. Forward Bryan Rust is “week to week” with a lower-body injury. Veteran center Jeff Carter, who has filled in for Crosby as the first-line center, will miss Saturday night's visit by the Maple Leafs after testing positive for COVID-19.
Coach Mike Sullivan said Friday that Carter is asymptomatic but will be unavailable against Toronto. The team did receive a bit of good news Friday when it turned out that top goaltender Tristan Jarry had a “false positive” COVID-19 test on Thursday, freeing up his return to practice.
Years of waiting finally end as Kraken make home debut
Seattle — In the hierarchy of influential figures in Seattle's sports history, Ken Johnsen’s name isn’t likely to be found even if his fingerprints are all over the landscape.
More than two decades ago, Johnsen was heavily involved in the building of the stadium now named T-Mobile Park that kept the Mariners from relocating and taking Major League Baseball away from Seattle.
For the past three years, Johnsen has overseen the construction of Climate Pledge Arena, which helped lure the NHL and could maybe bring the NBA back to Seattle someday.
He’s an expert when it comes to the construction of sports venues. But at his core, Johnsen is a fan, a Seattle native who still feels the loss of the NBA's SuperSonics 13 years ago. But he can’t wait to be in the building Saturday night when the expansion Seattle Kraken play their first home game against the Vancouver Canucks.
“Everyone working on this project will tell you this is as fun as it gets,” Johnsen said. “You’re building a new building. You’re building a new franchise, and you’re building it at a location that is just perfect. We’re kind of a startup in a lot of different ways. I came to the Sonics games when I was in my teens. And I watched the (Seattle) Totems here. I date myself but I saw the Beatles here.”
When the Kraken take the ice against Vancouver, nearly 5,000 days will have elapsed since the final chants of “Super ... Sonics” rang out on the same site in the old KeyArena.
April 13, 2008, was the closing of one chapter. Oct. 23, 2021, is the beginning of a new one. And it matters little that Seattle started the season 1-3-1 on its opening five-game road trip. The home opener will be a celebration, no matter the record.
“We’re a veteran enough group that we’ll use that to our advantage,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Take a few minutes to take it all in and really enjoy it, and then feed off the energy that will be in the building tomorrow night.”
The return of a professional winter sports franchise is providing a cathartic release for hockey fans who had begged for the NHL in this corner of the country and for sports fans in general who have felt incomplete since the day the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.
The Kraken are not a replacement for the beloved NBA franchise, which left a void for fans throughout the Pacific Northwest.
But that doesn't detract from what the Kraken's arrival represents. It was the potential of the NHL coming to Seattle that spurred the $1 billion project to essentially build a new arena under the historic roofline of what had been KeyArena, where Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp once thrilled thousands.
The Kraken hope to inspire thunderous chants of “Gru” for Philipp Grubauer saves, screams for quick fan favorite Brandon Tanev and to eventually host Stanley Cup playoff games.
“The whole city has scheduled (Saturday) on their calendar so I think it’s going to be awesome,” Grubauer said.
If nothing else, the arrival of the Kraken provides something to look forward to during those cold months when rain falls sideways and the sun disappears shortly after 4 p.m. For decades, those nights would generate buzz because of whatever NBA star might be in town.
Now there’s another league and stars like Sidney Crosby, Austin Matthews or Connor McDavid to look forward to.
And, of course, cheering on the hometown team.
“We’re getting to be part of something not many guys are going to be able to say they have at the end of their career, and in the history of the game,” Kraken captain Mark Giordano said. “It will be a pretty special moment for us as players, for our organization, for the city, for everyone involved.”