Sidney Crosby participates in practice Thursday. Crosby has not been restricted in drills at practices for weeks and reports are predicting he will return to playing in games soon.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For weeks, people outside the Penguins organization pointed to their game tonight against Dallas as a likely date for Sidney Crosby to resume playing.
After all, Crosby has been progressing nicely for some time, and the Stars game comes after a slow stretch in the Penguins schedule.
Logical as such thinking might have been, it wasn't accurate.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday that Crosby, who hasn't played since Jan. 5 because of a concussion, won't be in uniform for the Dallas game or the one Saturday night at Carolina.
That means the earliest Crosby could return is the home game Tuesday against Colorado.
"He had a good week of practice and is progressing, but he won't be playing this weekend," Bylsma said. "We're not keeping a secret. When he's going to play, we'll make sure we let you know."
The Penguins, though, could be getting right winger Tyler Kennedy back tonight.
He has missed the past nine games because of a concussion, and Bylsma said that whether to use him will be "game-time decision."
Because Kennedy is questionable, at best, the Penguins recalled left winger Eric Tangradi from their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre. He has seven goals and five assists in 12 games with the Baby Penguins.
6 players on All-Star ballot
Even though he hasn't played in more than 10 months, Crosby headlines a list of six Penguins on the ballot for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
The others are centers Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, winger James Neal, defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Voting will be entirely digital for the sixth consecutive season and will begin Monday online at NHL.com/vote and via mobile devices.
They just stood still
The most popular topic of discussion in the Penguins locker room Thursday might have been the 1-3-1 configuration Tampa Bay broke out early in its 2-1 overtime victory against Philadelphia the previous night.
And, more to the point, the Flyers reaction to it.
Which, at least for a while, was to do nothing.
With the Lightning players deployed strategically in the neutral zone, the Flyers declined to force play into the Tampa Bay end.
That led to players from both sides mostly standing around, and referee Rob Martell reportedly threatening the Flyers with a delay-of-game minor if they didn't try to advance the puck.
Trouble is, there's no provision in the rulebook for that, although the Lightning had to take a more aggressive approach after Philadelphia scored a power-play goal in the second period. How much of the audience for that nationally televised game still was tuned in by then is hard to say.
"I thought it was a little comical," Penguins winger Steve Sulllivan said. "It was pretty funny to see a team try to expose another team, especially in their own rink.
"I would like to know who [the fans] were booing. Were they booing the Philadelphia Flyers for not moving the puck or were they booing the home team for standing around, doing nothing?"
The Penguins and Stars made a pretty significant trade Feb. 21, when the Penguins sent highly skilled defenseman Alex Goligoski to Dallas for winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen.
Although Niskanen was the least prominent player in the deal, he might have benefited more from the change of scenery than anyone else.
He started strong with the Penguins, then tailed off enough that his job security looked to be an issue coming into training camp.
He had a strong preseason, however, and that has carried over through the first 15 games. Niskanen has a goal, three assists, a plus-minus rating of plus-3 and is averaging about 18 1/2 minutes of ice time per game.
"[The trade] gave me an opportunity to come in with a fresh start, with a new organization," Niskanen said. "Playing with some of the best players in the world is a heck of an opportunity for me."