Sid back to setting marks; fifth fastest to 400 assists

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 11:00 AM
Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Sidney Crosby entered the NHL record books again, and the Pittsburgh Penguins captain might just be warming up.

Crosby had a goal and two assists in the Penguins' 4-2 defeat of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. The second assist, on James Neal's second-period goal, was the 400th of Crosby's career. Coming in his 448th game, it made Crosby the fifth-fastest player to reach that mark, behind Wayne Gretzky (290 games), Mario Lemieux (353), Peter Stastny (411) and Bobby Orr (437).

The three-point game was Crosby's fourth of the season, and with 20 points in 14 games, he's tied with the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane for second in the League in scoring, three points behind the Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek. Crosby's 14 assists are tied with Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the League lead, and his 55 shots on goal are third.

Now that the concussion problems that plagued him for most of two seasons are a thing of the past, Crosby has returned to his place among the game's elite scorers. His 1.42 points per game this season is close to the level he was at prior to his concussion against the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Winter Classic, when he had 61 points in 41 games (1.60 points per game). And though he's been held without a point in four games this season, he has six multipoint games.

He's also played the third-most minutes among NHL forwards at 293:07, and his 20:56 average ice time leads all Pittsburgh forwards. Those also are numbers that he was used to pre-concussion.

"I feel with each game I'm getting more comfortable," Crosby told the (Newark) Star-Ledger after a game against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 10. "The speed of the game is something that comes from familiarity. So it's good to be kind of thinking about the game and what you have to do, instead of being preoccupied with your health. That's the best thing."

After sitting out the second half of the 2010-11 season and the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs, Crosby looked solid in his return early last season, starting with a memorable four-point game in his debut, Nov. 21, 2011 against the New York Islanders. But he lasted just eight games, leaving the lineup for three months to deal a recurrence of the concussion symptoms.

He came back again March 15, 2012 and had five points in his first two games. In the final 14 regular-season games, he had six goals and 25 points. He followed with eight points in the Penguins' first four Stanley Cup Playoff games against the Philadelphia Flyers, but was held off the score sheet in the final two games as the Penguins were eliminated in the first round for the second straight postseason.

But Crosby looks to be back in the groove now. He's on pace this season for 69 points, and elevating the play of linemates Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, each of whom have at least five goals and nine points.

"You've seen him play through [14] games now, at a pretty high level, doing some amazing things," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told the Star-Ledger. "He's playing well. He's pretty darn good right now."

FASTEST PLAYERS TO 400 ASSISTS:

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sidney Crosby is the fifth-fastest player in NHL history to 400 assists:

1. Wayne Gretzky, 290 games

2. Mario Lemieux, 353 games

3. Peter Stastny, 411 games

4. Bobby Orr, 437 games

5. Sidney Crosby, 448 games

6. Denis Savard, 450 games

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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