While the Penguins were in the process of extending their win streak to 15 games on Saturday, Sidney Crosby was heading to the hospital, where he had surgery for a broken jaw after taking a puck right to the mouth.
There was no immediate indication of how soon Crosby might be able to come back, especially with some wondering if concussion issues could resurface. It wasn't clear until Sunday that Crosby had a broken jaw, so it was tough to put a timetable on his return for multiple reasons.
While concussion symptoms aren't present, the team announced on Sunday that Crosby will still be out for a while.
SIDNEY CROSBY UPDATE: Out indefinitely after having surgery Saturday for a broken jaw.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 31, 2013
The term indefinite is always tough to nail down. But according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Crosby should be back in time for the playoffs.
When Crosby does return, it's a pretty safe bet that he will be playing with a face guard in addition to the visor that he already has. The only thing worse than breaking your jaw is having your broken jaw getting hit again.
You don't need me to tell you how significant of a loss that Crosby is for the Penguins -- he's the best player in hockey, and that's not really debateable anymore. However, the Penguins have picked up a couple of key players lately in Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow who can perhaps soften the blow a bit, in relative terms. But it's certainly not as if they are in danger of losing their division lead or anything like that.
One thing that will be interesting to see is if Crosby can hold on to the scoring lead. He has 56 points, 10 more than second-place Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. Likewise, it will be interesting to see if this hurts Crosby's bid for the Hart Trophy.
But those are certainly all secondary to the Penguins' quest for the Stanley Cup. Without Crosby, that takes a big blow. In the meantime, the Penguins are chasing history, just two wins shy of the franchise and NHL records for consecutive wins.
UPDATE: I spoke with a lifelong friend of mine who happens to be an oral surgeon. He explained to me that if Crosby were to have his jaw wired shut, it would be six weeks before he could even open his mouth. With screws and plates put in to fix the broken jaw instead -- as was the case -- it would normally be six weeks before they would clear Crosby for action.
Now that would be under normal circumstance, and he acknowledged that with Crosby being a professional athlete and a hockey player to boot, the Penguins and Crosby could push it on a quicker return. But having a chin-strap helmet makes it tougher when dealing with the broken jaw.
The point is, shooting for a return by the start of the playoffs is a pretty optimistic timeline for a return, but not necessarily impossible.