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Crosby to play in Penguins season opener against Sabres

Center practices for second straight day; Galchenyuk game-time decision

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Sidney Crosby will play and Alex Galchenyuk will be a game-time decision for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they open the regular season against the Buffalo Sabres at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, MSG-B, NHL.TV).

Crosby practiced for a second straight day Wednesday after sustaining an undisclosed injury when he took a shot off the foot from Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella in Pittsburgh's final preseason game Saturday. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the center would play Thursday.

Galchenyuk returned to practice Wednesday after last taking the ice with Pittsburgh during a morning skate Sept. 25. The forward missed their final two preseason games because of a lower-body injury.

Crosby, who led Pittsburgh with 100 points (35 goals, 65 assists) in 79 games last season, said he looked forward to beginning the regular season.

"It's not fun practicing against each other for that long, playing inter-squad and all that stuff," the Penguins captain said. "So to have meaningful games, and to know that's right around the corner, I think guys are excited and I'm sure the energy was good. It's been good, I think, all camp, but maybe today, it was a little extra."

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Crosby was first-line center during line rushes Wednesday with left wing Jake Guentzel and right wing Patric Hornqvist, and was on the top power-play unit with center Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang, Guentzel and Hornqvist.

Galchenyuk reclaimed his spot at second-line left wing, where defenseman Juuso Riikola served as a placeholder Tuesday, with Malkin at center and Brandon Tanev at right wing. 

"It felt pretty good at the skate out there," Galchenyuk said. "See how it responds in the morning and make a decision from there. ... I stayed active. Did a lot of work in the gym. Did a lot of skating on my own there. So it's not like I'll lose a lot of rhythm."

Malkin said he doesn't expect Galchenyuk's week-long absence from practice to negatively impact their chemistry. Galchenyuk was traded to Pittsburgh by the Arizona Coyotes for forward Phil Kessel on June 29.

"We have lots of time during the season," Malkin said. "I worked with [Alex] in the summer, a couple practices. We skated together. He missed the last week, but I think we're fine. I know how he plays. We talk to each other. He's a very smart player. I understand his game."

Galchenyuk was on the second power play with forwards Jared McCann and Dominik Kahun and defensemen Justin Schultz and Marcus Pettersson. After playing his first six NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Galchenyuk had 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 72 games for the Coyotes last season.

Galchenyuk had one goal in his only preseason game for the Penguins, a 4-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sept. 19. If he does debut for Pittsburgh on Thursday, Galchenyuk said he doesn't expect any lingering effects from his injury.

"It's been pretty smooth," he said. "You come in here, you get ready for the game and skate with the guys. You're ready to go. It's not like I missed any months or anything like that."

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