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Sidney Crosby producing prolific performances

Center Sidney Crosby's statistically successful return to the Penguins' lineup has been brilliant at times, quiet at others.

Crosby leads the NHL in points per game and has produced prolific performances. A streakier Crosby -- likely because of his long time away -- has emerged.

Consider that Crosby has been held without a point in seven of his 18 games this season -- 38.8 percent of the time. In contrast, Crosby has been held scoreless in 109 of 430 career games, or 25.3 percent of the time.

His scoring binges this season could indicate that a more dominant Crosby is lurking, with only more game action required for his game reach its peak.

Crosby already has produced four-point games on three occasions. To put that in perspective, the player with whom Crosby historically is compared -- Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin -- has four-point games just three times in his past 231 outings.

Crosby has produced multiple points in 10 games (55.5 percent of the time). In his career, Crosby records a multiple-point game 42.3 percent of time.

The feast-or-famine season has seen Crosby produce a one-point game just once. He has two three-point games and five two-point games to go with the three four-point games.

With 29 points in 18 games, Crosby boasts his finest points-per-game average of 1.61, which is easily the NHL's best. Crosby averaged 1.60 points per game before a concussion cut short his 2010-11 season.

Showdown, part 1

The Penguins host the Flyers today in a contest that could determine the playoff seeding for each team.

With four games remaining for each, the Penguins lead the Flyers by three points for the No. 4 seed.

A Penguins victory nearly clinches home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which likely will pit the Penguins against the Flyers. However, should Philadelphia win today in regulation, it would pull within a point of the Penguins. These teams meet again April 7 in the regular season finale at Consol Energy Center, where the Flyers have never lost.

So long, Simon

The Penguins have shipped defenseman Simon Despres to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He was a healthy scratch against Buffalo on Friday.

Defensemen Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin, Deryk Engelland and Brian Strait played against the Sabres, with Despres serving as the seventh defenseman.

The Penguins generally have been pleased with Despres' work.

It remains unknown when defenseman Kris Letang will return. He is out with a lower-body injury and did not make the trip to New York and Buffalo last week.

Defenseman Ben Lovejoy is out about three more weeks with a knee injury.

Saturday was day off

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is making an effort to ensure his team is rested despite its busy schedule. Bylsma called off Saturday's practice at Southpointe. He also canceled Friday's morning skate in Buffalo and made Thursday's morning skate in New York optional.

The Penguins play four times during the next seven days.

Additional Information:

Today's game

Penguins vs. Flyers

12:30 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center

TV/radio: NBC/WPXI, Penguins Radio Network

Notable: The Penguins and Flyers likely will meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Philadelphia owns a 4-0 all-time record at Consol Energy Center.

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