Pittsburgh Penguins Spring 2011 Game Plan: Without Star Power, What Can Be Done?

Steve StrausbaughContributor IFebruary 9, 2011

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 30: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins pose for a photo after Team Lidstrom defeated Team Staal 11 to 10 in the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The stars in Pittsburgh have temporarily burnt out. With Sidney Crosby out indefinitely and Evgeni Malkin out for the season, who will bear their load in Pittsburgh?

One possible scenario is the defense becoming New Jersey-esque and holding opponents to around a two goals-per-game average. There is no doubt the Pens have the ability to do that. They have a No. 1 overall pick and Stanley Cup champion with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal. Last night (February 8) was the first time Fleury let up more than three goals in a game since November 19th.

They have Brooks Orpik, former US Olympian. They have Kris Letang, who just played in his first NHL All-Star game. Oh yeah, and let's not forget about the two big acquisitions of Paul Martin and Zybenek Michalek during last year's free agency, who are known to be shutdown defensemen.

Rounding out the bottom of the D are Alex Goligoski, Derek Engelland and Ben Lovejoy; all capable third pairings, though Goligoski and Lovejoy can be scary at times in the defensive end.

If Sidney Crosby does not return this season, which is a definite possibility it seems, the most probable scenario is going to be playing defensive and relying heavily on Fleury to win games.

The other scenario is to make a huge splash before the trade deadline. It seems possible that Crosby could be shut down for the season. His salary combined with Malkin's would free up around $16-$17 million in cap space for the remainder of the season. That would allow GM Ray Shero to make some HUGE moves to at least get a run at the Cup.

We know the defense is solid, but bringing in guys with star potential such as Alex Kovalev or Jason Arnott would at least give the team a chance at scoring enough goals to win games with offense. There are some bigger names being thrown around like Jarome Iginla or Brad Richards, but it's probably not too likely their teams want to see them leave town for the playoff push.

It would be highly beneficial for the Penguins to try and reach a determination on Crosby before the trade deadline passes. If he needs to be shut down for the season, like Marc Savard, so be it. Just make the decision in time to let the team adjust accordingly.

A term Pittsburgh hockey fans have come to know in the recent years is, "In Shero We Trust." Regardless, it's been a nightmare of injuries for the Pens this year.