Injuries dominate Habs-Pens pre-game talk

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The news before the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Canadiens Thursday night was more about who wasn't playing.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby went back to Pittsburgh in the morning to have an upper-body injury he suffered Wednesday night in the Pen's 8-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning treated.

Penguins coach Dan Byslma said he didn't think the injury, which wasn't related to the apparent hit to the head Crosby suffered during the Winter Classic on a collision with Washington Capitals forward David Steckel, would be a long-term thing.

Penguins winger Matt Cooke went back to Pittsburgh with Crosby for what the team said were personal reasons.

On the Habs' side, Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced before the game defenceman Josh Gorges, one of the club's top defenders, would be lost for the rest of the season after it was determined he needed reconstructive surgery on his right knee. Gorges injured his knee on Boxing Day against the New York Islanders.

He joins top defenceman Andrei Markov in the pressbox, also out for the season after reinjuring his knee in mid-November.

"Any time you lose a player, it's a loss, but in the case of Josh, he is a strong leader and great competitor," said Gauthier. "We knew this was coming, especially after Dec. 26 when his knee locked on the ice and that's a very dangerous thing to happen there on Long Island. From that point on, we knew we would have to replace him.

"He'll speak for himself, but he's very disappointed. He wanted to come back, but it's just too dangerous. Our medical people said there's no way you should do that."

Gauthier has been making deals to bolster the blueline, bringing in James Wisniewski from the Islanders Dec. 28 and trading forward Maxim Lapierre to the Anaheim Ducks for defensive prospect Brett Festerling Dec. 31.

"Hopefully we have enough depth, but we'll keep on monitoring that situation," said Gauthier.

Gauthier said he wasn't feeling pressure to make another deal in the runup to the trade deadline Feb. 28.

"I'm not a big fan of the trade deadline. I don't believe in giving up large assets for players that play 15 or 20 games for you that season. It's very tough for players to connect with the team and build some chemistry that quickly. Having said that, you have to keep all your options open and that's what we'll do."

The Canadiens have hit the skids lately and went into Thursday night's game against the Penguins having won only three of their last dozen games after a 18-8-2 start.

"I think our team has had some difficulties lately, but we had a strong start," Gauthier said. "It's going to happen to a lot of teams around the league that you wind up in some kind of slump like that. I was encouraged by the last two games where I thought the guys really started going to the net. The thing that encourages me the most about this team is that you get out of these things as a team, not by pointing fingers at one another.

"This group is all in. That's the key expression. They're all in. They all feel for what's going on and they all want to get out of this and it started in the last two games. We're confident we can keep building on that.

"What I'm looking for is the continued all-in perspective like what we're doing right now. It's as a group they're going to get out of it just like it was as a group they performed very well in the playoffs last year. It's the leadership, it's the character of the club, it's the persistence.

"It's those things I think are all still there. We have an intense team. We play with speed and we're difficult to play against. We've got a group of guys with big hearts."


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