Penguins notebook: Full 82-game slate this year would be a first for Crosby



PHILADELPHIA -- It's not as if the young man's resume needs to be fleshed out.

At age 26, Penguins center Sidney Crosby already has managed to cross winning a Stanley Cup, earning an NHL scoring championship, receiving a league MVP award and claiming a couple of Olympic gold medals off his to-do list.

Among many other things.

But there is at least one feat that has eluded Crosby since he broke into the NHL in 2005.

One that he might just manage to do this season.

Crosby, you see, never has played an entire season as a pro. He came close a few times, appearing in 81 games in his rookie season and again in 2009-10, but always has had at least one lost-time injury.

But he has dressed for each of the Penguins' first 66 games -- including a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia Saturday at Wells Fargo Center -- and has a realistic shot at playing in all 82.

What's more, he played in all six of Canada's games at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

That means Crosby, who averaged just 33 games the past three seasons because of injuries, could appear in 88 before the playoffs begin in mid-April.

"Once you get out there [on the ice], it's good," he said. "You've got adrenaline and you're going. But away from the rink, you definitely feel it a little bit."

Crosby is highly superstitious, so his reaction to the very mention of his games-played streak was predictable -- he rapped his knuckles on his locker-room stall in the classic "knock on wood" response.

Perhaps in part because he's such a creature of habit, Crosby said he hasn't made any major changes to his conditioning routine because of the workload he has carried in 2013-14.

"There are some things you can't really avoid," he said. "As far as taking care of my body, with a group of [Penguins teammates] having gone [to the Olympics], I think it helps.

"We can all gauge off one another. Just having that group that you can kind of get a read, like, 'Hey, am I actually tired today? And if I am, are these guys feeling the same thing?'

"You can manage your body a little, according to that."

Kicking it up a notch

The Penguins and Flyers have one of the fiercest rivalries in the NHL, and Philadelphia responded to the latest installment with perhaps its best game this season.

"It seems the rivalry gets into everyone's head and everyone steps up their game," said Flyers center Sean Couturier, who had two assists Saturday.

"It's not only me, I think [Claude Giroux], as well. All the guys -- four lines, six [defensemen], everyone's doing the right things.

"There's always an edge to the game. It's huge."

Progress for Bennett

Penguins right winger Beau Bennett will sit out his 44th consecutive game because of a hand/wrist injury when the Penguins and Flyers meet again today at Consol Energy Center, but might be ready to return to active duty soon.

Bennett has resumed practicing with his teammates and is scheduled to have his injury checked today.

While there is no way of knowing for sure how that examination will go, coach Dan Bylsma seemed fairly upbeat about it.

"There is some reason for optimism, I guess," he said. "It's not black-and-white perfect, the picture, but he's been able to practice and do a lot in the last week or so in a full practice.

"It's been a good week, I think, from that standpoint."

Tip-ins

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was the Penguins' healthy scratch. ... The rematch originally was scheduled for tonight, but was moved to 12:38 p.m. to accommodate NBC, which will televise it nationally. ... The shutout was Philadelphia's first in the regular season against the Penguins since Martin Biron made 20 saves in a 2-0 victory April 6, 2008.


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.

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