With a longer offseason than the Penguins had the previous two summers, center Sidney Crosby was hoping the extra time and training would help him avoid the nagging lower-body pulls and soreness that seem to be a chronic problem.
"It's something I focus on all year, every year, but, with more time in the offseason, I figured that I might be able to attack it a little bit more," he said Saturday. "It doesn't mean it's not going to happen, but I was hoping that extra work or that extra time would help it. I think it's something I'm always going to have to deal with, but the more I can minimize it, the better."
Although it most often has been a groin issue, this preseason it was a sore hip flexor -- he said he "tweaked" it -- that caused Crosby to leave the preseason game Wednesday against Detroit early and sit out practice Thursday.
He was healthy and back in the lineup Saturday night against Columbus. He had no points in the Penguins' 3-1 win at Consol Energy Center.
He will continue to use his off-ice routine to try to forestall the injury problem.
"It's so many different things," Crosby said. "Some of it is just genetic. That's just the way it is. It's no different from any other sport where there are common injuries. The more you do to prevent it, strengthen it, hopefully, the better chance you give yourself."
In the game, Evgeni Malkin broke a 1-1 tie with his first preseason goal at 2:47 of the third period. And he helped to set it up, too.
He slipped a nice pass back to defenseman Andrew Hutchinson in the right circle, then raced to the crease. Crosby also raced down the slot, and Malkin directed a pass from Hutchinson past goaltender Columbus Steve Mason.
Arron Asham added an insurance goal for the Penguins, making it 3-1, when he shoveled in a rebound at 17:17.
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring at 12:03 of the first period when Derick Brassard lifted a nice backhand from the right dot over the glove of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Pascal Dupuis tied it, 1-1, for the Penguins at 16:48 of the second period. From the right dot, he converted a feed from Asham after a Columbus turnover with a blast to the short side.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, not known as a fighter, engaged in fisticuffs twice, against Matt Calvert in the second period and against Jakub Voracek in the third. He won both.
Fleury, as much of a kid at heart as any of the Penguins, easily related to the thousands of student-aged fans who got free tickets to the game, a promotion called the Ultimate Fan Game sponsored by the Penguins and Imagine Pittsburgh.
"When I was a kid, I never had a chance to go [to NHL games]," Fleury, a Montreal native, said. "Tickets were expensive.
"It's cool to give a chance to kids to see what it's like, see it live, see how that is, and maybe they'll dream about making it to the Penguins."
Coach Dan Bylsma's son, Bryan, and his youth hockey team, the Arctic Foxes, attended the game. The coach figured the young fans might get more out of it than just seeing stars such as Crosby play.
"I think sports are one of the best ways to teach life lessons," Bylsma said.
"Sometimes you see good things and bad things, but you see it."
Penguins defenseman Brian Strait is practicing again after missing a few days with what Bylsma described as a sore foot. ... Winger Brett Sterling, who signed over the summer, mostly played left wing Saturday with Crosby at center and Malkin on the right side: "We've all been joking that anybody would kill to be on this line. That was best-case scenario [when I signed], and now it's happening. This is fun. It's a blast. What more could you ask for?"