is back in the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby returned to game action Tuesday night when the Penguins shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0, and assisted on Max Talbot's game-winning goal.
Crosby, who suffered a high-ankle sprain Jan. 18, went through a successful on-ice optional practice session Monday morning at Mellon Arena. At that time, he was not sure when he’d return.
“I feel pretty good. I haven’t really had a chance to do much contact. With the way the schedule is, we don’t really practice. We’re pretty much practicing on game days and that’s it,” he said. “So, as an injured guy trying to get back, it’s a little difficult to difficult to gauge where you’re at because you’re not really practicing with contact and stuff like that. So, the tough part is knowing when it’s time and also, when it is time, making sure that your skills are there and everything are ready to go. I am not sure where I’m at right now, but time will tell.”
However, after going through a solid morning skate in Tampa Bay, Crosby decided to return to the lineup.
The Penguins captain had missed 21 games, as well as the NHL All-Star Game, with the ankle injury. He’s just happy to get back with the team and hit the road, even though it will be his first voyage without longtime roommate Colby Armstrong.
“For sure. It gets long watching games here and not traveling. It’s going to be a little different on this trip,” he said. “I’ve been pretty used to having Army beak me for three years on the road and be in my ear, so it’s going to be a little different, but at the same time, it’s going to be nice with the guys and get back in that atmosphere.”
Armstrong and Erik Christensen were part of the package sent to Atlanta last Tuesday at the NHL trading deadline to acquire Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
“It was mixed emotions definitely,” Crosby said. “To get a player like [Hossa], it’s a great opportunity for our team to do some damage, especially up front. Definitely, as players, we have to make sure that we see this opportunity and try to take advantage of it.”
Crosby looks forward to skating with Hossa, whenever he returns from a bruised knee.
“I am just excited to get back, period,” Crosby said. “But, to be able to play with a player like that will be great. I have been pretty lucky to have Geno here and to play with him, not always consistently, but on power play and things like that. So, we’re even more fortunate to get a guy like Hossa in here. It makes us a deeper team and, hopefully, a better one.”
Crosby was surprised to see the Penguins add a player like Hossa to the roster.
“He’s a great player. I never picture myself playing with anyone. As a player, you don’t worry about that,” he said. “You care about the guys in your room and you want to do the best you can with everyone. That’s everyone’s attitude. No matter if you’re on the first or the fourth line, you have a job to do and that’s the way I look at it. But, if you’re given a great opportunity to play with someone like that, you have to realize it and make the best of it.”
The addition of Hossa, an elite offensive winger, will give the Penguins plenty of firepower up front. Still, that doesn’t give the Penguins an automatic berth to the Stanley Cup Finals since the Eastern Conference squads aren’t going to back off simply because of that addition.
“Things don’t change, though. It’s always easy when you bring in a key player to think everything is going to be easy. The game doesn’t change. You still have to work,” Crosby said. “It’s one of those things where there are still going to be games where it’s going to be tough to put the puck in the net. We become a deeper team, but it’s up to us whether we want to make ourselves a better team. If we use it the right way we will, but, if not, then we’re going to have trouble just like any other team would.”
The additions of Hossa, Dupuis and defensemen Hal Gill should help improve the Penguins’ penalty killing, which has ranked near the bottom of the NHL all season.
“That’s an area we want to make sure we’re tough in, especially down the stretch. Going into the playoffs, special teams are so huge. Five-on-five, it’s usually pretty even. So, they are going to help in that area as well as five-on-five,” he said. “Gill and Pascal both played in the league for a while and I know Pascal was part of a Minnesota team that had a pretty long run in the playoffs that one year, so he brings that experience. I think it’s, all-in-all, a good deal for us.”
Still, someone will have to fill Armstrong’s role as the person who keeps Crosby on his toes. .
“I am sure someone will step up, but not quite to Army’s level, I don’t think,” Crosby said with a laugh. I couldn’t go a minute without him throwing something in my face. It’ll be a little easier, but I am sure he’ll still remind me.”
And, getting Crosby and others back to the lineup would be a boost for the Penguins, who just got goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury back to active duty.
“Hopefully, we’re going to filter back here in the next little bit. I think that’s just part of the process of growing down the stretch and preparing, hopefully, for a long playoff run,” Crosby said. “We all want to get back as soon as we can and get into that game mode and, definitely when we come back, it’s going to be one of those things where we’re thrown in the heat of things. I think we’re playing 10 divisional games to finish off the regular season, so those are going to be tough games and we’re going to be thrown in it right away, but we’re all excited for that.”