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Pens' Crosby misses practice, should be fine

Penguins center Sidney Crosby was excused from an optional practice Tuesday at Consol Energy Center, but his knee injury doesn't appear to be serious.

Crosby was well enough to stand in the bench area and address a crowd of about 8,000 noisy students from 56 area schools who watched practice.

Coach Dan Bylsma attributed the absence of Crosby and seven of his teammates to a "maintenance day." Bylsma typically allows players with minor ailments to skip practice, especially the day after a night game.

Crosby banged knees with forward Craig Kunitz in the third period of the 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday.

Kunitz said the injury occurred when he and Crosby were skating toward a loose puck and banged their knees against each other.

"We each kept going, and neither of us missed a shift," Kunitz said.

Other players who did not practice included forwards James Neal, Arron Asham, Pascal Dupuis, Richard Park and defensemen Deryk Engelland, Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek. Bylsma said Park is "day to day" with a lower-body injury.

Setback for Jeffrey

Bylsma said forward Dustin Jeffrey has curtailed his rehab workouts after experiencing swelling on his knee and may be out longer than the original two-to-four-week time period. Jeffrey was placed on the injured reserve list Nov. 22.

Meanwhile, defensemen Ben Lovejoy (broken wrist) and Brian Strait (elbow), who are also on IR, are progressing well and could be back in two to four weeks, the coach said.

OK with realignment

Bylsma said he hasn't had time to extensively study the NHL realignment plan, but his first impression is that it may heighten rivalries with some Eastern Conference teams.

"You will see those heightened because you will play within your conference for the first two rounds of the playoffs," he said. "That's going to add to some pretty entertaining, pretty exciting postseason matchups."

Making his move

Crosby received 114,000 votes last week and moved into second place among forwards in NHL All-Star fan balloting, the team announced. Crosby, who has 320,865 votes to rank fourth overall, is one of four Penguins near the top at their positions.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (240,289) and defenseman Kris Letang (277,094) are third at their positions, and forward Evgeni Malkin ninth (157,773).

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