Penguins Notebook: Crosby eyes return tomorrow
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Sidney Crosby seems optimistic that he will be back in the Penguins' lineup when the New York Islanders visit Mellon Arena tomorrow night.
"That's definitely a possibility," he said yesterday. "I'd definitely like to play that game."
Crosby, who is nursing a high ankle sprain, participated in the Penguins' game-day skate at the Prudential Center, then stayed on the ice for extra work with assistant coach Mike Yeo.
When he returned to the locker room, Crosby was sweating profusely, with no indication the flow of perspiration was going to slow anytime soon.
"This is a lot harder than playing, when you have to deal with this every day," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting back. It's just conditioning, to make sure I'm in shape. I feel pretty strong, as far as the ankle goes."
Crosby sat out his seventh game in a row when the Penguins faced New Jersey last night.
The Penguins also played without winger Pascal Dupuis -- he was in Atlanta, where his wife was giving birth -- for the second game in a row.
This obviously was an inopportune time for the Penguins to be without Dupuis, who has points in his past eight games and has been contributing at both ends of the ice, but coach Michel Therrien pointed out that the team didn't control when Dupuis' wife went into labor.
"You never know," he said. "Mother Nature takes care of those things."
With Dupuis unavailable, the Penguins summoned forward Connor James from their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre -- James' sixth promotion this season -- in case he was needed because, according to Therrien, several players were "banged up."
Left winger Gary Roberts, another Penguin dealing with a high ankle sprain, had his injury evaluated again Monday, and the examination did not reveal any previously unknown damage. General manager Ray Shero said pain is the primary issue for Roberts and that it has not been determined when he will resume skating.
Although New Jersey coach Brent Sutter wasn't in a joking mood Saturday after the Devils' 7-1 loss at Mellon Arena , by yesterday he was able to make light of his team's dreadful showing during the third period, when the Penguins got five unanswered goals.
"I would swear that we never played hockey before," he said. "Guys were falling down. They're coming on the rush, and we're falling over backward. At one point, I think they raised the blue line up a foot.
"It was just one of those games. We, basically, were a horse [expletive] hockey team in the third period, any way you want to look at it. I don't mean to sound vulgar, but that's the fact."
The Penguins signed Dartmouth forward Nick Johnson, a third-round draft choice in 2004, to a two-year, entry-level contract and assigned him to Wilkes-Barre.
Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 183-pound right winger, had 10 goals and 25 assists in 32 games this season, giving him 57 goals and 68 assists in 133 college games. He did not miss a game during his Dartmouth career.
Sutter, asked if defenseman Andy Greene's spotty play reflects a lack of confidence, launched into a lengthy discussion of the subject, making it clear he feels "confidence" is a bogus explanation when a player struggles.
"I'm not real big on that 'confidence' thing," Sutter said.
" 'Why did a player not play well?' Well, the first thing you always hear is about a lack of confidence. Maybe it's a lack of other things, too.
"A lack of work ethic, maybe a lack of [practicing well], maybe a lack in other areas. ... You [restore] confidence by playing well in practice, so that it carries over into the game."
That, he said, reflects his attitude since he played for legendary Islanders coach Al Arbour.
"I don't think I ever used the word 'confidence' when I played," Sutter said. "Because to me, Al always said, 'Just get back to doing things right, and you'll be fine.' That was always my mind-set."
The Staals -- Jordan (Penguins), Marc (New York Rangers) and Eric (Carolina) -- could become the first set of three brothers to qualify for the playoffs since 1992, when Aaron, Neal and Paul Broten and Brent, Rich and Ron Sutter made it. ... Penguins left winger Jarkko Ruutu, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, joked about the impact of him having goals in three consecutive games recently: "I can sign a contract now. I'll be expensive, though."
First Published March 26, 2008 12:00 am