Posted March 14, 2012 on AP on Fox
The Eastern Conference's hottest team is about to get even stronger with the return of its superstar. After missing a little more than three months because of concussion-like symptoms and neck problems, Sidney Crosby returns Thursday night at Madison Square Garden when the Pittsburgh Penguins try to win their 10th straight game and put more heat on the conference-leading New York Rangers. Pittsburgh (42-21-5) has been one of the NHL's best teams while going 21-4-1 since a six-game skid Dec. 29-Jan. 11. That surge has helped the Penguins move within six points of the Atlantic Division-leading Rangers (44-18-7). The return of Crosby would only seem to make them an even more legitimate Stanley Cup contender. "It's a great step for him and our hockey team,'' general manager Ray Shero said. "I know our team's been looking forward to having him back in our lineup.'' Crosby was the NHL's biggest star before he suffered hits to the head in consecutive games Jan. 1-5, 2011. He missed the rest of that season and the first six weeks of this one before returning to record two goals and 10 assists in eight games. Out since Dec. 5, Crosby believes he's in better shape now than before his health problems began last season. "I'm just trying to make sure I progressed and remain symptom free,'' said Crosby, who was dealing with dizziness and headaches as recently as December. "Everything's gone really well." Crosby will play on the third line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy as coach Dan Bylsma plans to ease his star back into the mix. "I think it's unrealistic to think he's going to step into MSG and be the only show on the ice but I know how the guy plays," Bylsma said. "I know how fast he's going to go." Crosby, who had two assists in a 4-3 loss at New York on Nov. 29, re-joins a Pittsburgh team that has outscored opponents 35-13 during the nine-game winning stretch. Hart Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin, tied for the league lead with 84 points, had three assists during a 5-2 win over Boston on Sunday. Marc-Andre Fleury has a 1.59 goals-against average while winning his last eight starts. In addition to Crosby, the Penguins could have top defenseman Kris Letang back Thursday from a five-game absence because of a concussion. "We really like the feel we have here,'' said forward James Neal, who had a goal with two assists Sunday. "Especially if we're at full strength with Sid and (Letang).'' That might not bode well for the Rangers, who have been outscored 6-1 while losing their last two against the Penguins after winning the first two meetings this season. Malkin scored twice during a 4-1 win at MSG on Jan. 19 and Fleury made 27 saves in a 2-0 victory over the Rangers on Feb. 21. "You have to be aware of all the other weapons Pittsburgh has," defenseman Ryan McDonagh told the Rangers' official website. "It's not just (Crosby)." Despite the results of the last two games and the return of Crosby, the Rangers are only concerned with their own play as they try for a third straight victory overall. "We just want to focus on playing and improving our game no matter who we play," said Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, who had a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win over Carolina on Tuesday. New York's Brad Richards has five goals in the last three games after being held to three in his previous 27 contests. He has two and two assists versus Pittsburgh this season. Henrik Lundqvist hopes to be back in net after being scratched Tuesday with the flu. He's posted a 2.28 GAA against the Penguins in 2011-12.

Sidney Crosby Returns to Pittsburgh Lineup, Odds Show He May Not End Season Strong With Penguins

The greatest hockey player on the planet is returning to NHL action tonight and all eyes will be on how he moves, how he handles the puck, handles contact, and, most importantly, how he scores. Everybody knows that the Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most potent offenses in the league, but tonight they’ll be facing the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers, who have a...

Sidney Crosby set to return Thursday vs. Rangers

It will be an immense day for the National Hockey League on Thursday, when the game's best player is planning to return. Since January 1st, 2010, more than a year ago, Sidney Crosby has played only 9 games. He tried to make a comeback earlier this season but went back to the injured reserve when his concussion-like symptoms returned."I feel good, and the plan is to play...

Crosby’s return makes Pens team to beat

There are currently four teams that have more points than the Pittsburgh Penguins. Don’t let the standings fool you. With Sidney Crosby returning to the lineup, the Penguins are undoubtedly the NHL’s team to beat.The current winning streak the Penguins are on – nine games, by the way – is fascinating. Their level of competition hasn’t been great, but winning that many...

John Toperzer: GAMEDAY! Pens ride nine-game win streak & Sidney Crosby into MSG

Pens (42-21-5, 18-13-3 road) at NYR (44-18-7, 24-7-2 home), Madison Square Garden, 7:00 pm EDT Follow me on Twitter @JohnToperzer Congratulations to those who had March 15 in the Sidney Crosby comeback date poll – you win! What will you get? Great question. The Penguins have already won nine straight games without the services of Crosby, or Kris Letang, for that...

Thursday (3/15/12) Headlines

Bergen Record - Rangers brace for Sidney Crosby's returnNew York Post - Pens’ Crosby returns from injuries tonight vs. RangersDaily News - Crosby return spices up Rangers-PensNew York Times - Crosby Is Ready to Face the RangersNewsday - Crosby set to return against RangersRemember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at

Letang rumored to return against the Rangers

Sidney Crosby might not be the only one that could be back in the Penguins lineup tomorrow.  It’s rumored that Kris Letang, who was out for the last several games with a recurrence of concussion like symptoms, could dress for Thursday’s showdown with the Rangers.  The return of Letang would be a huge boost for the power play and would virtually complete the Penguins’ season...

Friday (3/16/12) Headlines

Bergen Record - Rangers ripped by Crosby-led Pens, 5-2New York Post - Penguins cut Rangers’ lead to four points in Crosby’s returnDaily News - No Kid-ing: Sid leads Pens past NYRNew York Times - Crosby Blends In as Penguins Stand Tall Against RangersNewsday - Penguins get Sidney Crosby back, roll past RangersRemember to follow me on Twitter & Facebook or e-mail me at ...

Triumphant return for Crosby as Penguins win 10th straight

Matt Cooke scored a pair of goals and Sidney Crosby had an assist in a triumphant return to the lineup as the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 5-2 victory over the host New York Rangers on Thursday.Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also scored goals as the Penguins whittled Eastern Conference-leading New York's lead to four...

We're Coming for You Cry Baby

Looks like the Rangers are listening (via New York Times)...Brian Boyle..."Look, don't get me wrong. I'm happy for him that he's healthy. But our mentality cannot change and it will not change. When we play against Crosby, we have to play him hard."Carl Hagelin...“It’s always fun to go up against the best player. We just have to make sure all our emotion...

NBC Sports Has Full Slate of College Hockey/NHL

NBC Sports and the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will be offering a comprehensive slate of college hockey and NHL action over the next week. It all starts tonight as NBCSN has the return of Sidney Crosby as the Penguins take on the Rangers in New York. College hockey takes over Friday and Saturday as the

Evening Line

“I believe he will play the way he knows best, which is to compete at the highest level he can.” “He is very strong mentally and will be ready for it. If he had any doubt about his abilities he wouldn’t risk it. Hockey is also what he loves to do.” -Pat Brisson, player agent for Sidney Crosby.  More on Crosby from Helene Elliott of the LA Times.

One to Remember?

This is what many hockey folks are wondering when it comes to tonight’s tilt between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. For starters, it is both a divisional- and conference- battle. The Blueshirts currently hold a six point lead over the Penguins as the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. On the other side, the Penguins...

Focus on the Now

This is what the New York Rangers need to do when it comes to tonight’s game with the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden. It would be very easy for the Blueshirts to simply forget about tonight and turn their attention to Thursday night’s tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Sidney Crosby announcing that he will definitely be in the lineup for that game, it would...
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