Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby will miss Wednesday's Game 4 of the team's second-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals due to a concussion, coach Mike Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday.
Crosby was cross-checked in the head by Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen in the first period of the Capitals' 3-2 victory in Game 3. Crosby missed the rest of Monday's contest and was re-evaluated on Tuesday.
"He's very upbeat, he's very positive" Sullivan said. "We're very optimistic and hopeful we'll get him back in a timely fashion."
Pittsburgh left wing Conor Sheary will also sit out Game 4 due to a concussion, according to Sullivan. Sheary was injured in Game 3 when he collided with teammate Patric Hornqvist.
The absence of Crosby is a huge blow for the Penguins, who hold a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Crosby was operating in front of the net when the stick of Washington's Alex Ovechkin caused him to lose his balance. He was starting to fall toward the ice when the charging Niskanen pummeled him with his stick.
Niskanen was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct.
Niskanen, a former teammate of Crosby for three-plus seasons with the Penguins, said the hit wasn't intentional.
"I've seen the replay. On super slow-mo, it looks really bad," Niskanen told reporters. "I got him high. He's coming across trying to score. As he is doing that, he's getting lower and lower. I wasn't extending, trying to hit him in the head. And when it's happening that fast, my stick and his head (collided).
"I hope he's OK. I certainly didn't mean to injure him. It's an unfortunate play that happened really quick."
USA Today reported that Niskanen won't face a disciplinary hearing over the incident.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz asserted there was nothing sinister involved.
"He has to go to the back post because that's where the puck's going," Trotz told reporters. "He just sort of ran into the play. There's no reaction to it. Unfortunately Sid got injured. ... It's hockey. It's a hockey play."
Several Penguins had a different opinion.
"I like Nisky as a person," Pittsburgh left winger Chris Kunitz said. "I don't think it's a very nice hit. I don't think it's something this game is looking for, especially against someone who means so much to our team."
Crosby has a history of concussions, including one earlier this season, so the team's concern level remains high.
The 29-year-old Crosby is one of three finalists for NHL MVP honors after scoring 44 goals and posting 89 points during the regular season. He has twice previously won the Hart Trophy, awarded to the MVP.