Hedman wants Sidney Crosby back, too

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Victor Hedman does not know that it was his hit that gave Sidney Crosby a concussion.

Fact is, most observers seem to figure it stemmed from a nasty shot to the head Crosby got from then-Washington center David Steckel four days earlier.

Nonetheless, Crosby hasn't played since Hedman checked him from behind in a Jan. 5 game at Consol Energy Center, knocking Crosby's head off the glass.

Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion the next day and sat out his 60th consecutive regular-season game Thursday night, when the Penguins visited Tampa Bay.

Hedman, a Lightning defenseman, sounds as if he will be nearly as relieved as Crosby when Crosby finally gets medical clearance to resume playing.

"Everyone wants to see Sidney back on the ice, me included," Hedman said. "Whenever I went back home to Sweden [after last season], everyone was talking about the hit, asking me about it.

"It was tough for me to explain. I finished my hit, and he was out for the season. That's always tough. I told him, too, [that] I hope he recovers fast because hockey needs him. He's a hell of a player, and it's a lot of fun to play against him. That's a big challenge, every night. It's going to be a lot of fun when he's back on the ice."

Some bad numbers

The Penguins are sitting atop the Eastern Conference, but you wouldn't know it from the numbers they have generated while playing five-on-five.

They entered the Tampa Bay game having been outscored, 36-31, in such situations, a stat coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged he and his staff have noticed.

"Our five-on-five [play] isn't where we'd like it to be, in terms of scoring goals and keeping goals out of our net," he said. "Some of that, I do believe, is the fact that we've been up in games, up 4-1, and given up goals as the teams have tried to come back. That's been a factor in that number.

"There are parts of our five-on-five play that I really like, that we've improved on, especially in the last five games. At the same time, I don't like that number at all. I think we're a better team than that defensively and I think we're a better team than that offensively."

Change afoot in Tampa

The St. Pete Times Forum will be getting a new name soon -- it will become the Tampa Bay Times Forum after the newspaper that owns the naming rights makes a similar switch -- and already has a decidedly different feel since the Penguins' previous visit during the playoffs.

There is, for example, a large pipe organ high in one end zone -- sorry, purists, it's digital -- and a pair of Tesla coils are suspended high above the ice to generate bursts of electricity when the Lightning scores a goal.

So far, the changes seem to be have been well-received by what many here believe is an under-appreciated fan base.

"The energy in the building is very good," Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said.

"I was pleasantly surprised when I got here last year how good the buzz was in the rink, and I continue to be impressed by how much hockey is here in Tampa.

"I mean, I've got palm trees in my yard. It's very different, but people are very upbeat. They like their hockey here."

Michalek takes step forward

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek was on the ice for the game-day skate, his first workout with his teammates since breaking his hand while blocking a shot Oct. 22.

While that is a significant step, Bylsma said there is no timetable for Michalek to return to the lineup.

"I believe it's 23 or 24 days, post-injury, so he's not quite to the four-week mark of a four-to-six week [recovery period]," Bylsma said.

"[There is no projected return date] at this point in time. We talked today, and the stress level on the hand, while he can be involved in practices, is still too be determined by what we see when the doctor examines him."

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg .


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