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Penguins' Fleury to start, Crosby game-time decision

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com

AVALANCHE (10-13-7) at PENGUINS (20-6-4)

TV: NHLN-US, SN360, TVA2, ALT, ROOT

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was tested for the mumps on Wednesday, will start against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Forward Sidney Crosby could also play Thursday after missing the past three games with the mumps. Crosby said he will speak with Pittsburgh's medical staff before making a determination.

Fleury did not participate in Pittsburgh's practice Wednesday and goalie Thomas Greiss was expected to start against Colorado. The Penguins announced Thursday morning Fleury tested negative for the mumps and was cleared to play on Thursday. Greiss has undergone precautionary testing for the mumps and is in isolation.

"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 Jeff Zatkoff was recalled from the American Hockey League on Wednesday and will serve as Pittsburgh's backup.

Fleury has started in 23 of the Penguins' 30 games this season and has been playing arguably the best hockey of his career. He will carry a career-best 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage into his start against the Avalanche.

Crosby participated in the Penguins morning skate Thursday and centered the top line between left wing Evgeni Malkin and right wing Patric Hornqvist. He was diagnosed with the mumps on Saturday after his face swelled while participating in Pittsburgh's morning skate the day before.

He also returned to Pittsburgh's top power-play unit.

"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."

If Crosby does return to the lineup, he will not have one of his usual linemates at his disposal. Forward Chris Kunitz (foot fracture) will miss an eighth consecutive game, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said.

"[Friday] will really be the big test for Kunitz," Johnston said. "Because he'll get a full practice in. He'll do all the compete and battle drills, which he didn't do [Wednesday] with practice. So, that'll be good for him. This will be his third day of hard skating, but no real full contact."

Colorado did not hold a morning skate Thursday, but announced Wednesday defenseman Brad Stuart (hamstring) as well as forwards John Mitchell (leg) and Patrick Bordeleau (back) will return at some point during the three-game road trip. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Tuesday the three players, along with goalie Semyon Varlamov (groin) and forward Jesse Winchester (head), would each travel with the team.

Here are the projected lineups:

AVALANCHE

Alex TanguayMatt DucheneJarome Iginla

Gabriel LandeskogNathan MacKinnonRyan O'Reilly

Cody McLeodMaxime TalbotDaniel Briere

Dennis EverbergMarc-Andre ClicheBorna Rendulic

Jan HejdaErik Johnson

Nate GueninTyson Barrie

Brad StuartZach Redmond

Calvin Pickard

Reto Berra

Scratched: Nick Holden

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (back), Jamie McGinn (back), John Mitchell (leg), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Ben Street (hand), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (head)

PENGUINS

Evgeni MalkinSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist

Blake ComeauBrandon SutterSteve Downie

Nick SpalingMarcel GocBryan Rust

Rob KlinkhammerAndrew EbbettCraig Adams

Paul MartinKris Letang

Christian EhrhoffScott Harrington

Rob ScuderiSimon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Brian Dumoulin, Bryan Rust

Injured: Thomas Greiss (illness), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Beau Bennett (lower body), Chris Kunitz (foot fracture), Olli Maatta (upper body), Scott Wilson (leg), Zach Sill (upper body), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body)

Status report: Johnston said Harrington will make his NHL debut Thursday after being recalled from the AHL on Sunday. He has five assists in 21 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season. … Iginla and Talbot will each face one of their former teams on Thursday. Talbot played his first seven seasons in Pittsburgh.

Who's hot: Malkin has scored at least one point in each of his past five games. He leads the Penguins with 15 goals and 37 points, and has scored in 25 of their 30 games … Landeskog has scored three points in his past two games. He is tied for second on Colorado with 19 points, one behind Duchene and Barrie.

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