Crosby (groin) leaves practice early

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Being without Sidney Crosby when the New York Islanders visit Mellon Arena looks, at least for the moment, to be nothing more than a hypothetical nightmare for the Penguins.

Nonetheless, it is one for which Dan Bylsma, their interim coach, is preparing, mostly because it's his responsibility to be ready for every conceivable situation.

"That's the job of the head coach, to make sure you're ready for those adjustments [if they're needed]," Bylsma said. "We'll talk about them as an organization, we'll talk about them as a coach staff, and certainly prepare different scenarios and be ready."

Crosby left the Penguins' practice at Southpointe yesterday early because of what team officials described as a sore groin. He was listed as probable for the game at 7:38 tonight.

Crosby, who submits to media interviews immediately after virtually every practice and game, did not speak with reporters yesterday.

While Crosby departed early, forwards Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Cooke, who did not participate in the workout Monday, practiced with no apparent difficulty and are expected to play against New York.

"They were feeling good going into practice," Bylsma said. "They looked like they practiced well and, barring a message [from the medical staff] that I don't expect, they ... should be pretty good for tonight."

Defenseman Kris Letang, a healthy scratch the past three games after management was unhappy with his defensive play and practice habits, also will be back in uniform.

Bylsma acknowledged that not wanting to alter a lineup that won the first two games Letang sat out "was part of" the reason he was idle for so long.

"There are lots of things that go into the decision," Bylsma said.

"The players that were in played well. Certainly, Mark Eaton, who didn't play on Long Island [Feb. 16, when Letang made his most recent appearance] got in there and I think he's played a couple of real good games.

"We started to move in the right direction as a team. Certainly, there were some breakdowns and people didn't play perfectly, but the guys on the ice laid it on the line and we got a couple of victories in a row, and that [contributed to the decision]."

Bylsma said he had not determined who will be scratched to clear a spot for Letang tonight.

Fleury to start again

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced by Mathieu Garon after allowing five goals on 20 shots during the Penguins' 5-2 loss Sunday in Washington, but will make his 11th consecutive start tonight.

"He's our No. 1," Bylsma said.

"He's the guy who's going to carry the load for us, and we believe in what he can do for us going forward, for the rest of the season."

Fleury is 21-16-4, with a .907 save percentage (tied for 27th in the NHL before last night) and a goals-against average of 2.95 (tied for 33rd).



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