PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't the daunting task of facing young Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn and goaltender Justin Pogge that kept Penguins star centre Sidney Crosby out of last night's game at the Mellon Arena.
Instead, it was a groin injury the team insists is a minor tweak and no threat to the Pens captain starting the season Oct. 4th in Sweden.
The absence of Crosby was a disappointment to more than the home crowd and a coast-to-coast Canadian audience on TSN, however. Leafs coach Ron Wilson had hoped the presence of Crosby would be a nice early training camp report card for his youngsters.
"I was hoping (Crosby) would be playing," Wilson said. "For a Luke Schenn to play against maybe the best offensive player in the game to see how he matches up would be a good test.
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"I'd prefer if they had their whole team and playing it like it was a playoff game. Then I'd see where we are and what we have to work on."
Pens coach Michel Therrien opted for a more cautious approach, even though Crosby has been practising all week and participated in the morning skate with his teammates.
"If it would have been the regular season, I am convinced he would have played," Therrien said. "But at this time of year, it's not worth it. His groin just got a little tight this week. You don't want to risk a bigger injury for just an exhibition game."
With a young and hungry group of Leafs attempting to impress Wilson and management, the last thing Therrien needed was Crosby to aggravate the injury. The Pens already are on an accelerated pace this training camp because of the two dates in Sweden. The team flies overseas this Saturday to prepare for the season openers against the Ottawa Senators.
Therrien said "it's going to be up to him" when asked if Crosby would lace up in the return end of the home and home with the Leafs tomorrow at the Air Canada Centre.
Crosby skated vigorously in the team's practice on Tuesday and participated in yesterday's game-day skate but he has now only played in one of the team's three pre-season contests. He admitted yesterday that the pace of camp so far is jarring compared to the action of the team's playoff run this past spring.
"To go from the type of hockey we played in the playoffs to the hockey in the pre-season games ... obviously it's going to feel a little bit slow," Crosby said.