The status of Pittsburgh Penguins captain and star center Sidney Crosby is uncertain going into a game Thursday against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG Paints Arena.
Crosby had two assists Tuesday in a 4-2 loss at New Jersey, but he did not practice Wednesday. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby was being evaluated for an undisclosed upper-body injury. Crosby shares the team lead with eight goals and has 19 points in 16 games.
Pittsburgh recalled center Derek Grant from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but there was no immediate word on a corresponding move and Crosby was not immediately listed as being on injured reserve.
That is just one story line swirling around the Penguins, who are mired in a 1-5-1 slump and, at 7-6-3, are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh gave general manager Jim Rutherford a three-year contract extension, through 2020-21, and he immediately traded left winger Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles for left winger Tanner Pearson.
"I'm usually pretty patient, but my patience has run out," Rutherford said after making the trade, one week after he criticized his team on his radio show for not meeting expectations in several areas.
"Obviously (Rutherford) is sending a big message to the group," winger Patric Hornvist said. "It's been 16 games. We might have played five good games."
Pearson could make his Penguins debut against the Lightning. He has at least 15 goals in each of his past three seasons, but had just one point -- an assist -- in 17 games with the Kings this season. Rutherford acknowledged Pearson has had a slow start but said he believes he will be a good fit in Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay (12-5-1) leads the Eastern Conference and is two points behind Nashville for the NHL's top spot, but has lost two straight games, including a 2-1 decision Tuesday at Buffalo. It is the first time the team has lost back-to-back games.
"Losing two straight leaves a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth," Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde said. "At the same time, this is why we watch video. This is why we self-evaluate as a team. If we get that effort (we had against Buffalo), we'll be successful more times than not."
Tampa fell into a 2-0 hole at Buffalo before turning in a strong finish. It hopes to stop having to play from behind, something that has happened a couple games in a row.
"We want to start better," captain Steven Stamkos said. "It's not an easy league to win in. It's not an easy league to score goals in. So when you're spotting teams a goal or two goals early in the game. ... We know we have it in this (locker) room to come back, but you don't want to make that into a trend."
Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, who missed the past two games because of an upper-body injury, practiced Wednesday. He is day-to-day.
This is the first meeting of the season between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The Lightning has lost three consecutive games in Pittsburgh, by a combined 16-6.