Crosby's return to come with emphasis on playmaking
The world's most famous hockey player will be performing at the world's most famous arena on Thursday, yet there will be something unfamiliar about Sidney Crosby's surroundings.
Crosby will have new linemates and a new role on the power play when the Penguins meet the Rangers in an Eastern Conference showdown at Madison Square Garden. He also won't be playing as many minutes as usual. At least not yet.
"I think this time," coach Dan Bylsma said, "shooting for around the 15-minute mark in the game is more likely given the fact we're playing three (games) in four (nights) and him getting back in the lineup again for the first time in a while."
The point is clear: Bylsma and the Penguins are going to be careful with Crosby, even more than when he returned in November.
Playing Crosby with left wing Matt Cooke and right wing Tyler Kennedy is an example of Bylsma essentially handcuffing himself from playing his captain for too many minutes.
"If there was another combination or if it was (Chris Kunitz) and (Pascal Dupuis on a line with Crosby)," Bylsma said, "it would be a lot tougher to keep him at 15 minutes."
Crosby has never played on a line with Cooke and Kennedy. Center Jordan Staal ordinarily centers that line when the Penguins are healthy.
"We're going to try to move our feet and control the puck down low and generate some good chances," Crosby said, "hopefully off the cycle."
Crosby developed into perhaps the league's best goal scorer during the past three seasons. He led the league with 51 goals during the 2009-10 season and scored 32 goals through 41 games in the 2010-11 season before being hampered by concussions.
However, it appears -- at least, at first -- that he will go back to his roots by becoming primarily a facilitator. His ability to set up teammates has always been natural, as evidenced by his 10 assists in eight games in November.
"He's an incredible passer," said Kennedy, who always looks to shoot. "I've never really played with him before, but you've got to be expecting the pass at any time from him."
Crosby also sounds like he'll be setting the table on the power play more than taking shots. He'll see some time on the point while center Evgeni Malkin will maintain his duties at the right wing wall.
Crosby is intent on making sure Malkin receives a heavy amount of opportunities on the power play.
"I think I'm able to see a lot of the ice there (from the point)," Crosby said. "And I've got Geno, who loves that big shot on the side wall. My job would be to try and distribute the puck amongst everyone, but when he's shooting the puck like that, just giving it to him in that area and letting him work there."
With 14 games remaining before the playoffs, Crosby has time to work himself into condition and refine all aspects of his game.
Bylsma admitted that he will tinker with his lines before the playoffs, and expects to play the 24-year-old star on a multitude of lines including some time playing wing with center Jordan Staal. There also remains a possibility that Crosby will play with Kunitz and Dupuis again.
"With 14 games left," Bylsma said, "we'll see the next five, seven, eight games ... different combinations on the ice. It's a good number of games left to have."
And having Crosby back is a good thing for the Penguins.
Given the team's recent play -- the Penguins are looking for their 10th straight win on Thursday -- there is not a sense of urgency to rush Crosby back into the spotlight.
The plan is to let Crosby find his way during the next few weeks before unleashing him, full speed, in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It's exciting for everyone," Kennedy said.Additional Information:
The Penguins let Sidney Crosby play considerable minutes when he returned to the lineup in November. Coach Dan Bylsma plans on keeping those numbers in check starting on Thursday. Here are Crosby's minutes in each of his eight games during his previous return:
Date -- Ice time
Nov. 21, 2011-15:54
Nov. 23, 2011-18:41
Nov. 25, 2011-17:06
Nov. 26, 2011-20:55
Nov. 29, 2011-20:36
Dec. 1, 2011-20:21
Dec. 3, 2011-19:27
Dec. 5, 2011-21:03
With Sidney Crosby returning to the lineup Thursday, here's how the Penguins' lines are shaking up -- for now.
Left wing - Center - Right wing
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Tyler Kennedy
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins GM Rutherford: Malkin’s play belies fact he missed training camp
- Penguins notebook: After slow start, penalty kill on upswing
- Penguins assistant coach Tocchet wants Letang to shoot more on power play
- Penguins veteran defenseman Scuderi’s game looking up
- Penguins’ defenseman Maatta confident of full recovery
- Starkey: Hockey hypocrites, unite
- Predators GM Poile: Penguins’ firing of Shero not fair
- Fleury, Penguins too much for Kings
- Penguins look to match effectiveness of top power-play unit from last season
- Maatta had been back in groove after offseason surgery
- Penguins’ Crosby OK with Neal comments about trade