I have a Specialized Hardrock Comp FS A1 1999 model. The bike is in decent shape but needs a new crank and bb.

I have searched and gotten some conflicting advice. Can i change from a 42-32-22 (8spd)front crank to a 44-32-22 crank that is made for a 9 speed and still use it as an 8 spd?

If so what chain do i use?

I only want to spend the minimal money at this point and may upgrade the rear and shifters at some point to 9 spd....but i dont have the money to do that now.

Advice please?