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Crosby ready for Penguins' busy weekend

by Corey Masisak

Sidney Crosby had another point added to his total hours after Pittsburgh's 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers on Thursday night.

More important for him and for the Penguins, he participated in practice Friday at Prudential Center -- and expects to play in both of Pittsburgh's games this weekend. Crosby played Thursday for the first time in 3 1/2 months, the second celebrated return from concussion symptoms stemming from a pair of hits in early January 2010.

The Penguins collected an important victory in the race for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, and they have two more critical contests Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, NHLN-Canada, RDSI).


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"That was my intention, to play in every game," said Crosby, whose intentions have not changed after facing the Rangers. "It's just the way the schedule worked out. If I get can get three in four there pretty quickly, it is not a bad thing either. I can kind of jump into quickly and get into that routine of playing a lot of hockey, so no, I don't plan on splitting those two or anything like that."

Crosby played exactly 16 minutes against the Rangers and left the Garden with one assist. He was awarded a second one Friday after the League reviewed Pittsburgh's fifth goal.

He now has two goals and 14 points in nine games this season. It is a small sample size, but his 1.56 points per contest is in line with the 1.61 (66 points in 41 games) he was collecting during the 2010-11 season before the injury.

Thursday wasn't the fairly tale-esque return like the one he had in a four-point night against the New York Islanders in November, but he was solid and the team looked a Stanley Cup favorite with Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang back in the lineup.

"He looked good. He looked like he hadn't missed a beat," forward Craig Adams said. "He made a few great passes and looked strong on his skates. He's happy and healthy today, so we're happy for that."

Added center Jordan Staal: "Yeah, he's a good player. He's obviously going to get better and better. We're excited to have him back as a team and very excited to see him get those legs going again and see what he can do. It's been a long time, and he's a fun player to watch. I'm sure the League is happy and we're very happy to see him back on the ice."

Crosby and his teammates spent a large portion of Friday's practice working on the power play. He was stationed at the right point next to Letang in his first game back with Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz up front.

It is a different look for Crosby, and for the Penguins. With no ice time the next two days because of afternoon starts, coach Dan Bylsma wanted to give them more time to get comfortable.

Even after the formal part of practice was over, Crosby, Malkin and Neal had a lengthy conversation by themselves about positioning for one-timers near the top of the right circle.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 14
SOG: 32 | +/-: 10
"I think it was for everyone," Crosby said of all the PP work. "You want to make sure you're going over all those details. The more time we can do it, the better. Obviously we're playing a lot of games without a lot of practice, so it was good to get it in."

Crosby was on the ice for three of Pittsburgh's goals (all at even strength), while Letang -- back after missing five games -- was on for all five. With the game in hand down the stretch, Bylsma dialed back his captain's ice time, though he conceded he would have gotten Crosby an extra shift near the end of the first period were it not for a skate issue.

Bylsma also said he still wants to limit Crosby's ice time this weekend and not give in to relying on him in certain spots like he's accustomed to doing -- like when the Rangers and Penguins had a 4-on-4 situation late in the second period. Bylsma couldn't resist putting Crosby out for that one.

"I felt pretty good at 16 (minutes), but that was probably the perfect number with all the adrenaline and things like that," Crosby said. "Usually the games that fall after sometimes can be a little bit tougher. We'll probably stick right around there and see how things go. Sometimes it is really out of your control and you just see how the game goes. I thought that was a pretty good number and I felt good with that.

"[I missed] just being in the routine in general -- being in games, preparing, being around the guys, all that stuff. You miss that stuff. To get that back here has been a lot of fun and exciting."

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