Penguins notebook: Sidney Crosby, 3 others log 82-game seasons
Two of the Penguins players with the lengthiest injury histories were among the four players to appear in all 82 games this season.
Sidney Crosby and Olli Maatta joined Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel in the perfect-attendance club when they dressed for the regular-season finale Friday night against the Ottawa Senators.
It was the first time Crosby appeared in all 82 games in his 13-year NHL career. He played 81 twice and 80 twice but also missed large stretches of three seasons from 2010-13 because of concussion-related problems.
The 82nd game for Crosby was in doubt when he seemed to be favoring his left wrist after taking a two-handed slash from Columbus defenseman David Savard on Thursday night, but he reported no problems after the game. Coach Mike Sullivan reiterated Friday that Crosby was fine.
It was the first time Maatta played all 82 games in his five-year career. Over the previous three seasons, he regularly was sidelined with a wide variety of maladies, ranging from shoulder surgery to a cancerous tumor on his thyroid.
Kessel, meanwhile, has had perfect attendance for nine of his 12 seasons in the NHL. He has played 692 consecutive games.
“It’s an indication of the fitness level. These guys really take care of themselves,” Sullivan said. “They pride themselves on making sure they control everything they can to be in the best possible condition to endure the rigors of the schedule. This is a hard league. It can be a grind. These guys are extremely fit. They take care of themselves. That’s an indication of it.”
An extra day off
After living with perhaps the most difficult schedule in the league this season, playing in an NHL-high 19 sets of back-to-back games, the Penguins received a reward right before the start of the playoffs.
They were the first team in the league to finish the regular season. Twenty-eight teams will wrap up Saturday. Boston and Florida will play a make-up game Sunday to complete their schedules.
“I’m not sure if that’s a reward or it isn’t,” Sullivan said with a laugh. “We can’t control the schedule. All we can do is react to it. That’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Sullivan said he’ll spend some of his extra day off Saturday keeping track of what Columbus, New Jersey and Philadelphia do. The results of their games will determine who the Penguins face in the first round of the playoffs.
“There are a lot of scenarios that are out there,” Sullivan said. “I’m sure everybody will be watching.”
The only change the Penguins made to their lineup after a 5-4 overtime win in Columbus on Thursday night was in goal, where Casey DeSmith started instead of Matt Murray.
Chad Ruhwedel remained in the lineup on defense, with Matt Hunwick serving as a healthy scratch.
Center Derick Brassard missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. On Thursday, Sullivan said he hadn’t yet considered whether Brassard would be back in time for the playoff opener. On Friday, he said the 30-year-old center had resumed skating.
“That’s certainly a big step for him,” Sullivan said.
When Brassard returns, it looks like Sullivan will have one last postseason lineup decision to make. He can choose between Josh Jooris and Zach Aston-Reese for the final winger spot on the fourth line.
Jooris said he was trying not to treat the final games of the regular season as an audition.
“I’m just trying to contribute,” Jooris said. “I’m not looking at the playoff roster. I’m here now. I’m taking it day by day. That’ll play out the way it does. Any way I can contribute to this team, I’m going to do it.”