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Old 01-19-2008, 05:08 PM   #503
Bronx33
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Default burden will fall to Evgeni Malkin

The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to need to adjust to life without Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin is ready to help.

Crosby badly sprained an ankle while ramming into the boards in the first period, and the Andre Roy-led Tampa Bay Lightning took advantage of his absence for a 3-0 victory over the Penguins on Friday night.

"Right now, since we lost our leader and our captain, I'm going to try my best and raise my game," said Malkin, who is second on the team with 52 points. "I'm going to try to do a little more."

His teammates will have to as well. The Penguins, had won six in a row at home and were 9-0-1 in their previous 10, looked listless without Crosby and the spark was gone from the sellout crowd.

In Friday night's other NHL games, it was: Buffalo 10, Atlanta 1; Carolina 7, Edmonton 2; Chicago 2, Colorado 1 in a shootout; Calgary 6, Los Angeles 1; Anaheim 4, Minnesota 2; and Florida 2, New Jersey 1.

Malkin has 12 goals and three assists in his past 13 games. He'll need to keep that up until the Penguins' captain comes back if they want to remain near the top of the Atlantic Division.

The timetable for Crosby's return is unclear.

He was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, an injury to the large ligament that connects the two biggest bones in the lower leg, the tibia and fibula. The injury is more serious than the traditional twisted ankle and can sideline an athlete for a month or more. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been out since Dec. 6 with the same injury.

"Obviously, it is a huge loss," said coach Michel Therrien, who doesn't know how long Crosby will be out. "There is no team that can deal with losing the best player in the league. He is the heart of the team and he is our leader. We are going to face adversity and we are going to have to battle through it."

Until now, Crosby has missed only four games to injury during his three-season NHL career. The Penguins' record without him is 0-2-2.

"To see a guy like that go down and not come back, it's tough," Penguins forward Colby Armstrong said. "Guys are going to have to take it upon themselves as a team to fill in. But I don't know if you can fill a spot like that."
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