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Penguins' Crosby returns against Avalanche

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is in the lineup against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Crosby missed Pittsburgh’s past three games with the mumps. He participated in the Penguins morning skate Thursday to test how he felt and said he felt well afterward but would talk with the medical staff before determining if he would play.

“When I saw that picture, that's not what I looked like before I went on the ice,” Crosby said of a photo that circulated on Twitter of him with a swollen cheek. “It was just one of those things, we were well aware of it. Everyone did the right things to try to keep me and everyone else as protected as you can be. But it's just something that sometimes you can't do anything about it.”

Crosby, who is second on the Penguins with 35 points, took part in Pittsburgh’s warm-ups. He will play between left wing Nick Spaling and right wing Patric Hornqvist. With Crosby in the lineup, forward Evgeni Malkin, who leads the Penguins with 15 goals and 37 points, will play second-line left wing next to center Brandon Sutter and right wing Blake Comeau.

Forward Chris Kunitz, recovering from a fractured foot, will not play. Penguins coach Mike Johnston said he will see how Kunitz responds during practice Friday before deciding if he can play Saturday.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury starts against the Avalanche after he was tested for the mumps on Wednesday. Fleury’s test results came back negative and he was cleared to play.

“I’m pretty happy,” Fleury said. “I was pretty confident [the results would come back negative]. I didn't feel too bad, so I was just glad that they did it quick to get the result back quickly. I was a little worried about missing the game tonight.”

Goalie Thomas Greiss, who was expected to replace Fleury in net, has undergone precautionary testing for the mumps and is in isolation. Goalie Jeff Zatkoff was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and is Pittsburgh’s backup.

The Penguins announced Wednesday that Fleury, along with injured defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta, were each being tested for the mumps. Bortuzzo’s and Maatta’s results had not returned by Thursday morning.

Forward Beau Bennett, who has missed 10 games with a lower-body injury, was diagnosed with the mumps, Pittsburgh confirmed Tuesday. Bennett, who was one of several players to visit Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital on Dec. 11, was tested on Monday.

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