Sidney Crosby will be on the ice with the Pittsburgh Penguins on
Thursday – just not when it counts.
The visiting Penguins could get an inspirational lift with their
star expected to take part in the morning skate prior to a
potential first-round playoff preview against the Tampa Bay
Out with a concussion since an 8-1 home win over Tampa Bay on
Jan. 5, Crosby was cleared to return for morning skates on gamedays
but is not ready to participate in full practices. Crosby began
individual workouts March 14 and has reported no setbacks.
The Penguins (45-24-8) are 19-12-5 without their captain.
“It’s a natural return for his progression here. His rehab has
been ongoing,” general manager Ray Shero said. “He’s doing well
with it, but at the same time, as a manager, I have no expectations
of him coming back and playing in the regular season. That’s not
going to happen.”
Still Pittsburgh’s leading scorer with 32 goals and 66 points,
Crosby hopes to return for the first round of the playoffs. That
could be against Tampa Bay (41-24-11), fifth in the Eastern
Conference and five points behind the fourth-place Penguins.
The Lightning, who have won two in a row following a four-game
skid, see the value in this potential playoff preview even without
“We know that we’ve got a good chance of playing each other, so
we’ll definitely learn from each other,” said Lightning captain
Vincent Lecavalier, who has four goals and six assists over the
last eight games.
“It’s pretty close to playoff time. I’m sure it’s going to be a
pretty intense game.”
After winning four straight by shootouts, Pittsburgh fell 5-2 to
Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Penguins trail the East- and Atlantic
Division-leading Flyers by four points with five games
“I don’t think that we play hockey to win the division,”
Pittsburgh center Max Talbot said. “We play hockey to win in the
playoffs and to get ready for them.”
Pittsburgh looks to bounce back with a third consecutive win
over the Lightning after losing 5-3 at Tampa on Oct. 27.
Chris Kunitz recorded his second career hat trick in January
against the Lightning. Tyler Kennedy, who has three goals in five
games, had one with an assist in that contest.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed three more goals
Tuesday than he did while winning his previous three starts, has
lost two of three at Tampa.
Lightning star Steven Stamkos ranks among the league leaders
with 44 goals, and he has one with three assists against the
Penguins this season. He snapped a five-game point drought with an
empty-netter and an assist as the Lightning moved closer to
clinching their first playoff berth since 2007 with a 5-2 win over
Ottawa on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay’s nine goals in the last two games match its total
during the previous four-game skid.
“We’re comfortable with our game right now,” Stamkos said.
“Seems like we’ve got our confidence back. There’s a lot of
Dwayne Roloson, who snapped a four-game skid Tuesday, has a 5.40
goals-against average while losing his last four starts versus