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Crosby returns to the lineup against Minnesota

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins center Sidney Crosby will play Tuesday night when his team hosts the Minnesota Wild at PPG Paints Arena at 7 p.m.

"Excited to be back in the lineup," he said following the team's morning skate. "I just want to come in, bring some energy and make sure that I'm doing my part."

The Penguins are certainly happy to welcome back their captain.

"It's hard to put into words. He means so much to the organization, he means so much to his teammates," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's exciting to have him back. His on-ice play speaks for itself, and his ability to change the outcomes of games. He's a difference-maker. But more so than that, he's a leader. I think that in and of itself gives our team a boost."

Crosby, who has missed the past 28 games with a core muscle injury that required surgery on Nov. 14, has been skating with his teammates in some capacity or another for the previous two weeks.

"It's part of the process with the timing and practices. I'm happy to be playing," Crosby said. "It's a slow process. Getting each step in and feeling good at each point, that's the biggest thing. That's part of the process. Guys who have been injured, and we've had a lot of them this year, know what that's like. You're just happy to get back."

Crosby had been dealing with the core muscle injury in early November and last played against Chicago on Nov. 9. After consulting with the team, he opted to have surgery.

"You're always communicating with the training staff and doctors. Everybody weighs in," he said. "Those are pretty daily conversations."

The Penguins have gone 18-6-4 in Crosby's absence and have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference overall at 28-12-5-61. Pittsburgh has achieved this feat despite suffering 188 man-games lost this season.

Crosby would never rush his own recovery, but the team's on-ice success made it easier to remain patient.

"The way we play every night, the work ethic and consistency that we've had, it's never easy watching. But it makes it easier when you see the group playing like that," Crosby said. "And you know every night we're going to work hard and make it tough on the other team.

"You want to play, but it's been great to see. We've got to continue to do the same thing."

Crosby is hoping they continue to win with his return.

"The team has played great," he said. "I just want to come in and help.

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