Penguins Notebook: Crosby's comeback challenging

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NEWARK, N.J. -- It is not as easy as Sidney Crosby makes it look.

Almost none of it. Especially the part about returning to work after an extended absence.

He has done that twice this season and has put up six points in the process.

Crosby got four in his first comeback game, Nov. 21 against the New York Islanders, and picked up two assists -- one of which wasn't awarded until after a league review Friday -- in a 5-2 victory Thursday against the New York Rangers.

That's a 246-point pace over 82 games, which would obliterate Wayne Gretzky's record of 215 in a season.

Still, Crosby said there are challenges with getting back into the rhythm of games, especially outside of the offensive end.

"I could go through a laundry list with you," he said. "Defensive zone, obviously. Just really the feel. Being able to react. When you haven't played for a while, you probably get caught watching a little bit and trying to dissect things, as opposed to reacting.

"It's much more fun to play when you're reacting. That's just something that comes with time.

"I would say the main thing you want to look at right away, as far as I'm concerned, is just making needs sure defensively that I'm good, because I don't want to spend a lot of time in our zone."

Crosby played 16 minutes against the Rangers and described it as "probably the perfect number, with all the adrenaline and things like that."

How much he'll be used when the Penguins face New Jersey at 1:08 p.m. today at the Prudential Center is unclear, although coach Dan Bylsma seems intent on not overworking him.

"It's tough not to put him out there every time when [there are] situations where you want to lean on him for what he can bring to the team," Bylsma said.

"But [I'm] still going to try to keep his minutes not at full-go yet."

Pair of aces on defense

The defense pairing of Kris Letang and Paul Martin was assembled a few weeks ago, before both were forced from the lineup by injuries, and was reunited in the victory Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Based on the preliminary results -- Letang was a plus-5 against the Rangers, while Martin was a plus-3 -- the coaching staff has little reason to second-guess its decision to deploy those two together.

"Their skating attribute is the best way they defend," Bylsma said. "It's not as physical as a Brooks Orpik and a [Zbynek] Michalek.

"Maybe not as totally defensive-minded as that pair, but, with their skating ability and stick positioning and their positioning, they're a really good defending pair. Especially against good skating lines."

Meeting was a good call

The start of practice Friday at the Prudential Center was delayed about 30 minutes because of an hourlong meeting they had with NHL executive Brendan Shanahan, who handles supplemental discipline for the league.

The Penguins were the last of the 30 NHL teams to get together with Shanahan -- he met with the Devils a couple of hours earlier -- and they seemed to be satisfied with the information and explanations he provided about rules interpretations and suspensions that have (or have not) been assessed this season.

Forward Craig Adams said the purpose of the session was to "just kind of go over what's gone on this year and sort of reiterate the rules changes that they talked about at the beginning of the year, then show examples of hits that have been punished, hits that have gone unpunished and just kind of explain where he's coming from."

Several players said the presentation, and Shanahan's responses to questions, gave them insight into how supplemental-discipline decisions are reached, and a new appreciation for the kind of judgment calls Shanahan and the committee that assists him are compelled to make.

"At the end of the day, there are going to be some imperfections in the system, and he acknowledged that," Adams said.

"It's not an exact science, for sure. I feel like the process has been well-thought out, and it's being handled well."


Penguins right winger Arron Asham did not practice Friday because of illness, according to Bylsma. His status for the game today is not known. ... Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk told New Jersey reporters his front-runners to be league MVP are Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, depending on which team finishes first in the Eastern Conference.

Scouting report

Matchup: Penguins at New Jersey Devils, 1:08 p.m. today, Prudential Center.

TV, Radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Martin Brodeur for Devils.

Penguins: Are 5-1 in past six road games. ... Fleury has allowed two first-period goals in his past eight starts. ... Need one victory to become 11th in NHL history to get 1,500.

Devils: Have not scored a goal in regulation or overtime of their past two games. ... LW Ilya Kovalchuk's next goal will be his 400th. ... Lead NHL with 14 short-handed goals.

Hidden stat: Devils are NHL's all-time leader with 53 shootout victories, followed by Penguins with 51.

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at . Dave Molinari: and Twitter @molinaripg.


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