Struggling Pens may get some help vs. Stars

The struggling Pittsburgh Penguins might be getting some help Wednesday when they host the Dallas Stars at PPG Paints Arena, while the Stars will be dealing with a key absence.

Pittsburgh center and team captain Sidney Crosby appears to be close to returning after missing three games because of an upper-body injury.

Crosby was a full participant in practice Tuesday.

Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop is expected to miss about a week because of a lower-body injury that forced him out of Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers in New York.

Crosby first rejoined his teammates on the ice for a morning skate Monday but did not take part in line rushes. Tuesday was a step forward.

“It’s good to get out there with the guys, compete and get back into doing those regular things,” he said. “Just to be able to get contact and do regular drills, that’s a good sign. It feels good to be able to do those things.

“We’ll see how I feel.”

Crosby said it was difficult sitting out, especially with Pittsburgh mired in a 1-7-2 slump and an uncharacteristic 3-5-2 at home.

“You want to be with the group regardless of winning or losing. You want to be out there,” he said. “But I think especially when you lose you just want to go and help any way you can. (I’m) trying to stay positive and do my best to get back.”

Crosby had two goals, five points in the three games before he got hurt. He ranks third on the team with 19 points and is tied for second with eight goals.

“I just felt like my timing, deciding when to shoot, when to look to pass, just attacking, I feel like things like that started to come,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, I can pick up there.”

The Penguins’ other star center, Evgeni Malkin, sat out practice Tuesday because of what coach Mike Sullivan called a “maintenance day,” but could be available to face Dallas. Center Matt Cullen has a lower-body injury that will keep him out “longer term,” according to Sullivan.

Bishop’s injury “is soft tissue. It’s nothing serious,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said.

Anton Khudobin, who replaced Bishop against the Rangers, is expected to take over the No. 1 duties for the time being. The Stars are expected to recall Landon Bow to serve as the backup.

“Nothing changes,” Khudobin said of moving up while Bishop is out.

He took the loss Monday and is 2-2-1 in his five decisions over the past three weeks.

“We have all the faith in (Khudobin), all the confidence in the world,” center Tyler Seguin said.

The Stars have just three regulation losses over their past 11 games and the loss to New York ended a two-game winning streak, but Montgomery said his club’s work ethic is lacking.

“I want guys to win one-on-one battles, and I want people stopping on pucks, besides the puck pressure,” Montgomery said. “The one thing I found inconsistent with our team has been our work ethic on a daily basis. That’s practice and games.

“It’s something we’ve talked a lot about with the leadership group. I don’t think we understand yet what real hard work looks like.”