Crosby rejoins regular Penguins linemates in practice

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For the Penguins, it was a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come.

There was Sidney Crosby, back between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis on what had been hockey's most lethal line.

Crosby, back to enhance a No. 1 power-play unit that already looked as if it could score almost at will. While blindfolded.

Crosby, back to looking like the guy whose skills set and commitment made him the dominant force in the NHL for the first three-quarters of the regular season.

Today's game

  • Game:

    Penguins vs. New York Islanders, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.

  • Series:

    Penguins lead, 1-0.

  • TV, Radio:

    Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).

  • Probable goaltenders:

    Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Evgeni Nabokov for Islanders.

  • Penguins:

    Won Game 1, 5-0. ... Pascal Dupuis has 4 goals, 8 points over his past 7 playoff games. ... Evgeni Malkin has 25 multi-point games in the postseason.

  • Islanders:

    Never had two regulation road losses in a row in the regular season. ... Had 51 penalty minutes in Game 1 after averaging 9.3 during season. ... Keith Aucoin won 6 of 7 faceoffs in Game 1.

  • Hidden stat:

    The Penguins are 7-2 in their past nine playoff games when scoring at least two power-play goals.

But nothing he did in practice Thursday at Consol Energy Center necessarily means the Penguins expect to have him in their lineup when they face the New York Islanders in Game 2 of an opening-round playoff series at 7:08 p.m. today.

Although Crosby hadn't been formally ruled out of that game as of Thursday afternoon, neither had he been scheduled for the examination he'll need to pass before he gets medical clearance to resume playing.

"Nothing's changed," he said.

Even if Penguins coach Dan Bylsma doesn't add Crosby to his personnel mix tonight, he might have to make at least one change for Game 2 because winger James Neal seems like a long shot to play. Neal had an apparent ankle injury early in the second period of Game 1 and was the only player who did not take part in the Thursday workout.

Bylsma declined to discuss Neal's injury, or those of any other player, but plugged rookie Beau Bennett into Neal's spot alongside Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla during the workout and likely will use him there if Neal is scratched.

There also was concern that the Penguins might have lost Jussi Jokinen after a hit by Islanders forward Marty Reasoner late in Game 1 -- Reasoner was assessed a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct -- but Jokinen was able to practice Thursday.

"Those are dangerous hits, and you can get hurt bad, but it's part of the game," Jokinen said. "I'm lucky that I'm OK."

If Crosby and Neal spend tonight in street clothes, Bylsma presumably will have one of the three healthy scratches from Game 1 -- Tyler Kennedy, Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey -- take Neal's place in the lineup.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who missed the past three games because of an undisclosed injury, practiced with no apparent problem Thursday, but said he is under orders not to discuss anything related to his injury, including when he might return.

"I love being honest but I've been told a thousand times I can't say anything about it," he said.

Orpik said he and the other injured Penguins watched Game 1 from the press box and volunteered that the game "looks easy [from] up there."

Actually, the Penguins made Game 1 look easy -- a lot easier than it likely was -- from just about everywhere, from ice level on up.

"We played the right way," Dupuis said.

"It's the way we want to play."

For the most part, anyway.

Bylsma made a point Thursday of saying that the Penguins have to be more aware of the transition game and the quick-strike capability it gives the Islanders in Game 2.

"They're a very dangerous team in transition, they're a very quick team in transition and they were that [in Game 1]," Bylsma said. "They had a few opportunities as a result of that, and we needed to be more aware of those situations that they like to get into and use, and be better defensively against it."

While there will be the usual tweaks and adjustments that follow every game in a series, the Penguins would be content to replicate most of what happened in the opener.

"We'll probably try to play the same way," defenseman Paul Martin said.

He added, though, that the Islanders can be counted on to elevate both their intensity and performance level as they attempt to even the series before it heads to Long Island.

"Their execution, I think, will be better," Martin said. "I think they'll come a lot harder and try to get something going."

Slipping into a 2-0 hole would put the Islanders in a precarious spot.

Especially with Crosby assuming his customary duties during practice, which suggests his return might not be that far off.

"As we have done over the last seven days or so, we're just preparing for different scenarios," Bylsma said. "Preparing for what the possibilities may be at a given time."

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Dave Molinari: and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 3, 2013 4:00 AM


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