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Sid shift-by-shift live blog

by Dan Rosen

Final totals: Crosby took 21 shifts and had eight shots on goal. He had 2 goals, 2 assists, won 14 of 21 faceoffs and was a plus-3.

11.21.11 | 9:00 PM ET

Starting the blog up for the third period at Shift 16 after Crosby played 15 over the first two periods:

Shift 16: CROSBY SCORES AGAIN. He jumped over the boards for the first time this period at the 1:37 mark for a faceoff in the Islanders zone against Josh Bailey. The Penguins grabbed possession and Crosby held the puck for a while, going from behind the goal to the right wing wall, all with Milan Jurcina on him. He finally turned back and used his wicked backhander to beat Anders Nilsson off a defletion by Isles defenseman Steve Staios at 2:06 to give the Penguins a 5-0 lead. It is Crosby's second goal of the night and his fourth point of the night.

Shift 17: He came back looking for the hat trick at the 4:20 mark. The Islanders got a shot on goal on Marc-Andre Fleury, who made the save, his 22nd of the night, to keep his shutout in tact. The shift did not last long and did not include any time in the offensive zone.

Shift 18: After a bit of a layoff, Crosby returned with 12:25 to play in the period, taking a defensive zone faceoff against Josh Bailey. He's seeking a hat trick and he won the draw, leading to a quick Penguins breakout. He took the bodoy on David Ullstrom to win the puck, and nearly was in position for a rebound goal off a shot by Kunitz. He then held the puck on a wrap around, go into the right circle, and fired into Nilsson's chest. The shift ended after 55 eventful seconds.

Shift 19: Crosby jumpe dover the boards again with 5:33 to play and immediately went to the net. He nearly found a loose puck as well. The shift, though, lasted only 24 seconds before Kunitz went to the box for tripping. Crosby skated back to the bench as the Penguins went on the PK.

Shift 20: With 3:05 to play Crosby came on for a defensive zone draw against Josh Bailey with Malkin and Neal as his wingers. He lost the draw, but blocked a shot, and cleared the puck down the ice for an icing, meaning he had to stay on for another in-zone draw against Bailey. This one he won, but the Penguins coughed up the puck and had trouble clearing it out. They finally didand Creosby set up Malkin for two chances. He does it so quickly that if you blink you'll miss it. He hopped over after a 56-second shift.

Shift 21: He came back for his final shift with one minute left and the fans started chanting his name. Crosby,, who was with Staal and Dupuis, stayed on for the rest of the game. He never got his hat trick, but he left to a standing ovation. He's surely going to be the No. 1 star.

11.21.11 | 8:00 PM ET

Picking up the blog with Shift 8 after Crosby played 7 in the first period:

Totals in 2nd period: Crosby picked up an assist, his second of the night, on Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal 3:17 into the period. He played eight shifts totaling 4:31 of ice time and had two shots on goal. Crosby also won six of his nine faceoffs in the period.

Through 15 shifts totaling 11:41 in ice time, Crosby has a goal, 2 assists, a plus-2 rating, 6 shots, 9 attempts at the night, and a 11-6 record in the faceoff circle.

Shift 8: Crosby started the second period in the faceoff circle against Frans Nielsen. The Penguins opened with 1:30 left on the power play. He won the faceoff but the Penguins quickly lost possesson. It took a nice backcheck by Steve Sullivan to negate a shorthanded Islanders chance. Crosby worked down low with Neal, and had a deflection that went off of Nilsson's left pad. Neal picked up a high-sticking minor, leading to 4-on-4 play. Crosby wasn't a part of it.

Shift 9: With Andrew MacDonald going off for hooking, Crosby returned to the ice at 1:27 of the second period for a quick 4-on-3 that lasted only three seconds. He tried to win the draw from Tavares and go right to the net, but it didn't work. He stayed on for 4-on-4 and had a 2-on-2 rush with Malkin, who set him up with a one-timer that he blasted into Nilsson. The goalie held on and Jordan Staal came out with Sullivan for the ensuing faceoff.

Shift 10: CROSBY ASSISTS AGAIN. He was back the moment Neal's penalty expired and the Penguins went on the power play. As he has done all night, and throughout his career, Crosby immediately dashed to the net trying to get a scoring chance. He had one, but Nilsson stopped it. Crosby also had a shot blocked by Jay Pandolfo, but the puck right back to him. He fed Kris Letang at the point. Letang sent a slap pass from the point down to Malkin at the left post. Malkin settled the puck and put it behind Nilsson. Crosby got the secondary assist, giving him 3 points on the night. The Penguins lead 3-0 at 3:17 of the second period.

Shift 11: Crosby's line returned for the center-ice faceoff after Steve Sullivan scored to make it 4-0 at 5:53. Crosby had a seat on the bench for that goal, the first time he watched the Penguins score from ice level since January. This even-strength shift didn't last long for Crosby and it was a rarity in that it didn't have any scoring chances or exciting moments.

Shift 12: This one began 9:21 into the period with a faceoff in the Isles defensive zone. Crosby won it, but the Isles gained possession angot the puck down the ice in front of Marc-Andre Fleury. The shift lasted all of 22 seconds, easily his shortest of the night so far.

Shift 13: Back on to take a defensive zone faceoff coming off a TV timeout at 10:16. Crosby won it from Frans Nielsen and the Penguins quickly got down the ice. Crosby, with his back to the goal, set up Kunitz with a wicked backhanded pass. Kunitz tried to kick it to himself, but he kicked it too far. Crosby chased down the puck and was in position to shoot it back on Nilsson, who had to dive and make a glove save. He now has six shots on goal and has won nine of 13 faceoffs.

Shift 14: It took him a while, but Crosby returned to the ice for a defensive zone faceoff with 5:22 to play, nearly four minutes after his last shift. Evgeni Malkin joined him for an even-strength shift for the first time. Kunitz was also on the line. Crosby immediately got a scoring chance with one of his patented backhanded shots from the hash marks. Nilsson made the save on his seventh shot on goal of the night. The Isles coughed the puck up, leading to Crosby setting up Letang for a shot. Crosby definitely looked energized on that shift after his relatively long layoff between appearances on the ice. It probably helped that Malkin was one of his linemates.

Shift 15: Crosby came on with 10 seconds left to take a defensive zone faceoff. The period ran out before he could attempt to make this shift matter.

11.21.11 | 7:10 PM ET

Crosby returned in dramatic fashion with a goal and an assist in the first period. He played 7 shifts totaling 7:10 of ice time, including 3:04 on the power play. He scored with a nifty backhand off the rush at 5:24 and assisted on Brooks Orpik's one-timer from the point at 16:29. In addition to his 2 points, Crosby also won five of seven faceoffs and had four shots on goal.

Shift 1: Crosby opened by outbattling John Tavares to win the faceoff. He didn't waste long to have an impact, setting up Kunitz, who fed Dupuis in the slot for a failed one-timer. It was a good opportunity that Dupuis whiffed on. Kunitz nearly wound up with a goal. His backhanded shot went wide right. 

Shift 2: Crosby's first change on the fly occurred 2:48 into the game. He led the forecheck and then started a breakout that led to Anders Nilsson covering it up, leading to a faceoff in the Isles defensive zone. Jordan Staal's line, with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, came over the boards to take the faceoff.

Shift 3: CROSBY SCORES. He jumped over the boards at 5:07 and immediately went to play D. The Penguins got the puck back and he raced up through the middle of the ice. Crosby got a step on the Islanders forecheck and took a pass from Pascal Dupuis in stride. He beat Andrew MacDonald through the right circle and used his backhand to roof a shortside, glove side shot past Anders Nilsson for his first goal of the season in just his third shift of the season 5:24 into the first period.

Shift 4: Crosby replaced Evgeni Malkin's line at 9:22 of the first and immediately created more chances in front of Nilsson. Crosby was standing with his back to Milan Jurcina and he was cross checked in the back. The official saw it and called it, leading to the Penguins first power play of the night. Crosby stayed on the ice for the PP with Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Steve Sullivan. He played mostly on the half-wall and helped set up Malkin for a one-timer from the right circle that rang off the near post. He was hit hard behind the net by Travis Hamonic, but popped right back up and went to the front of the net. The power play portion of the shift lasted nearly 90 seconds.

Shift 5: CROSBY ASSISTS. He had a nearly four-minute break between shifts. He didn't come back out until there was 4:42 to play, taking the faceoff and winning the faceoff against Marty Reasoner in the Penguins defensive zone. He won another faceoff against Reasoner after the puck popped into the Islander bench. Once again, with Crosby's line on the ice, the Penguins were able to establish possession in the Isles zone and get shots toward Nilsson. The one that came off of Brooks Oprik's stick from the point beat the rookie goalie on the stick side 16:29 into the period, giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead. Crosby set him up with a backhanded pass from the left-wing half-wall, not far from the blue line. That's a goal and an assist in five shifts for Crosby in his first game in 320 days.

Shift 6: With Tavares taking a hooking penalty at 16:53, Crosby was back on the ice with the power play unit. He was unafraid to go right to the front of the net and even took a soft open-ice hit from Reasoner at the endof his shift. It certainly appeared that Reasoner held up on the hit, but it wouldn't have been necessary for him to crush Crosby in that moment because the play was past them.

Shift 7: The Penguins were back on the power play so Crosby was back on the ice. He won the faceoff in the right circle, giving the Penguins possession for the final 30 seconds of the period. They will continue on the power play for the first 90 seconds of the second period.

Sid gets the start tonight
11.21.11 | 7:05 PM ET

Sidney Crosby's line will get the start tonight. Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis are his wingers.

The crowd here, as expected, erupted into an ear-piercing applause when the Penguins came onto the ice.  Defying the amazing, it got louder when Crosby was introduced, and the fans broke out into a "Crosby, Crosby, Crosby" chant.

Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik will start on defense with Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

The opening video, narrated by the voice of the Penguins, Mike Lange, was all about Crosby, starting with his No. 87 illuminating the scoreboard.

A "Let's go Pens" chant shot up throughout the arena during the video that showed, well, all clips of Crosby. Looks to me that they've had this one in the can for a while now as they were waiting for him to make his comeback.

Crosby receives standing ovation in warmups
11.21.11 | 6:49 PM ET

While warmups don't constitute ice time or a shift, they were big for Sidney Crosby because it was the first time he has taken them since Jan. 5.

Crosby was the second to last Penguins player on the ice, trailed only by Evgeni Malkin, who always comes out last. He was greeted to a standing ovation the moment he touched the ice. The stands, which are normally a quarter of the way (if that) for warmups, were more than half-filled by the time the warmups ended at around 6:45 p.m.

Fans were holding up Welcome Back Sid signs. ROOT Sports, the Penguins local TV affiliate, had an iso cam on Crosby as well as a Countdown to Comeback clock.

As expected, Crosby took line rushes with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. We're waiting to find out if that is the line that Dan Bylsma starts the game with.

Will Crosby be one of the best tonight?
11.21.11 | 5:52 PM ET

As I was setting up my laptop in the press box high above the ice here at Consol Energy Center, the video playing on the scoreboard was filled with Sidney Crosby highlights. It looked pretty sharp, at least from what I saw of it.

Tonight we'll find out how sharp Crosby looks on the ice. This blog is intended to provide some insight into that with a shift-by-shift look at his night against the Islanders.

Crosby hasn't played since Jan. 5, a span of 320 days and 68 games when you factor in the playoffs, so expectations are tame at best. That said, this is Sidney Crosby we're talking about and I can't remember a time since he was in junior hockey that he wasn't expected to be the best player on the ice.

Dan Bylsma says he has been in practice, so there's no reason to believe he won't be tonight against the Islanders.

We'll find out how his night unfolds, one shift at a time.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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