Crosby, Penguins 'prepared and rested up' for Bruins
Shawn P. Roarke
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby has had enough down time -- even if he knows the resumption of Stanley Cup Playoff hostilities could come with a hefty physical price.
Center - PIT
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 15
SOG: 46 | +/-: -1
After eight days without a game -- the Pittsburgh Penguins haven't played since knocking the Ottawa Senators out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last Friday -- Crosby can't wait until Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
Even if that game will be against a Boston Bruins team known as one of the most physical in the NHL.
"It's been productive," Crosby said of the extended layoff. "We've prepared and rested up. We all know what is coming and we'll be ready for [Saturday]."
What is likely coming for Crosby is a steady diet of physical forwards and wave after wave of punishing defensemen, led by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Siedenberg.
Crosby could see Chara and Siedenberg together as Boston's top pair, or separately if Bruins coach Claude Julien tries to combat the Penguins' two-headed monster at center that is Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin said Friday he hopes Crosby sees more of 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara.
"I'm not surprised [Malkin]'s hoping that," Crosby said with a laugh.
In reality, each of Pittsburgh's top-two centers will see a lot of Chara, who averages a little more than 29 minutes of ice time per game.
"I'm sure [Chara]'s going to get both of us," Crosby said. "It seems he's always out there. He plays a lot of minutes. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play both of us, depending on situations."
Crosby knows Boston has other punishing defensemen who revel in exacting a physical toll from opposing forwards. So, no matter who hops off the Boston bench with the assignment of containing Crosby, the Penguins captain expects to receive a rough ride.
"Every team is pretty physical in the playoffs," Crosby said. "I think [Boston is] known for being a physical team, but there is only so many hits you can get in a game, opportunities to do it, so I'm sure they are not going to pass them up. With that being said, I don't feel like other teams necessarily have either. I think that is just part of playing playoff hockey."
What is different for Crosby this time around is that he is playing without the lower faceguard that has been his constant companion since joining the playoffs in Game 2 of the first-round series against the New York Islanders. Crosby was given the all-clear by team doctors earlier this week after being told his fractured jaw was fully healed and no longer needed the additional protection.
"I definitely feel much better than I did with the full-face [guard]," he said. "It took a couple of days to kind of get the courage to go to the front of the net and get in the battles and things like that. I think that is just typical. Now I don't even notice it. Now it feels like it always has. I'm glad I had a good solid week to get used to it."
Crosby said he is ready for whatever comes this series, be it physical play or tight-checking. He said he believes he is at the same level he was before fracturing his jaw March 30 -- and 15 points in 10 playoff games only reinforce that sentiment.
"I think I feel pretty good. It's playoffs and it is tight checking and you have to get better with every round and every game," Crosby said. "You've got to learn from things as series go on. I feel pretty good. I don't think there is anything I would change at this point. I feel like I have adjusted with each series. You've got to make sure you take advantage of the chances you get."
Crosby and his Penguins are ready to resume that quest Saturday night.