Crosby not only one to make a return
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There was a comeback from injury Monday night for the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
No, not that guy.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek returned after missing 10 games because of a broken right index finger he got from a shot taken by New Jersey's Rod Pelley in an Oct. 22 game.
Michalek didn't care that he was overshadowed by the return of Penguins captain and NHL star Sidney Crosby against the New York Islanders.
"Ha. I don't mind that, you know?" Michalek said. "Going under the radar, it's not a bad thing. Let him have all the attention. I'm just glad to be here."
And to be there on the night that Crosby returned after being out since Jan. 5 because of a concussion.
"First of all, I'm really happy for Sid," Michalek said. "It's been a long time. A lot of pressure on him. Good to have him back. Obviously it's a big game for all of us. We are all happy for him. He is the leader of our team. To be part of his [comeback] game means a lot."
Michalek had a goal and two assists in 10 games before getting hurt, but his value is as a penalty-killer and shutdown defenseman.
He was back with his regular partner, Paul Martin, who has struggled at times and entered the game with a plus-minus rating of minus-10, worst on the club.
"The two of them have played their best when they've been paired together," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They've played a lot of games together and they've been a shutdown pair together. I think when you start the season, you look at those guys being together and we are going to get that again."
The Islanders were well aware of Crosby's comeback before the game -- "It's a great night for the National Hockey League to have a guy like Sidney Crosby back in, with his caliber," coach Jack Capuano said -- but they weren't nearly as concerned with the pageantry or even the implications on the ice as they were with their own lot.
"No disrespect to them, but we're not really thinking about them," New York defenseman Mark Eaton, formerly of the Penguins, said.
"We're coming off probably our worst loss of the season. We were pretty much embarrassed. So we're looking to get ourselves back on track regardless of who we're playing."
The Islanders fell to Boston, 6-0, Saturday and entered the game against the Penguins on a 1-4-1 slide.
If anything, New York was more concerned about ignoring what it knew would be an electrified setting.
"It's something that we addressed," Capuano said.
As further proof that the Islanders weren't allowing themselves to get caught up in the Crosby comeback hoopla, Capuano chose 6-foot-5 rookie Anders Nilsson to start in goal.
Nilsson, 21, played the final two periods of the debacle against Boston -- his first NHL appearance. His start against the Penguins was the first of his career.
Goalies are a fragile commodity for New York. Often-injured veteran Rick DiPietro backed up Nilsson, with Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya injured.
"The kid gets a chance," Capuano said. "You saw it last year -- we went through six of them. It's a good time, a good opportunity."
The Penguins are expected to return defenseman Alexandre Picard to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. They also placed forward Dustin Jeffrey (knee) on injured reserve. ... Penguins center Joe Vitale was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. The Penguins also scratched winger Steve MacIntyre.
First Published November 22, 2011 12:00 am