PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby's second comeback definitely is on track. It may not be on a fast track, but what's the hurry? The 24-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S. learned a hard lesson last time, not to do too much, too soon.
Besides, time is on his side. There still are nine regular-season games remaining. The playoffs don't begin for another three weeks and the game's top player in his absence just happens to be teammate Evgeni Malkin.
The NHL's leader in the Art Ross Trophy race expanded his offensive totals up and over the 90-point mark with an outstanding five-point game in the Penguins skillful 8-4 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Crosby was no slouch either. He checked in with a four-assist outing to give him nine assists in his four games since he returned from his latest concussion-related injury last Thursday.
"It's much easier when the team is playing as well as we are," said Crosby, whose Penguins are 12-0-1 in their past 13 games, 3-0-1 with Crosby back in the lineup.
"You always work hard and prepare, get ready to come back. There are still areas where I need to get sharper, but with everyone playing it makes it easier for anyone coming back."
Of course, Crosby feels the need to get sharper. Even when completely healthy he looked for ways to be better. But right now he looks just fine. He's already skating at an incredible pace. He's finding his teammates with creative long and short passes. He's making plays as if he never missed 81 games and the playoffs over the past 15 months.
About the only area Crosby hasn't thrived during his four games back is he hasn't scored a goal. But that's being extremely picky.
If you take his totals from the eight-game stretch he played in late November and early December, before his concussion-like symptoms returned, Crosby has two goals and a whopping 21 points in 12 games.
These are pretty good stats for a third-line centre. He has made a goal-scorer out of Tyler Kennedy, who scored two more against Winnipeg. Kennedy finds open ice and Crosby finds him. He has helped further Matt Cooke's amazing transformation from a thug to a responsible, two-way left wing.
Thoughtful Penguins coach Dan Bylsma carefully has managed his captain's minutes. With a difficult three-games in four days to start the comeback, Crosby's busiest game was the 17 minutes, 37 seconds he played in the overtime loss to the rival Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon.
That was until Tuesday, when No. 87 found himself on the ice for 19:08. He played more than expected because Bylsma wanted Crosby to get some power-play time in his new role bringing up the puck in man-advantage situations. Crosby also found himself on the ice late in the game because Kennedy also was given extra time to try and score his hat-trick goal.
But overall, Crosby and the Penguins are pleased with the way this comeback has gone so far.
"I feel really good," Crosby said. "I'm really happy the way things have gone. So, no setbacks.
"I felt a little tired [on Monday]. It's to be expected. But it's good to have that feeling. We're going to play a lot of games. It's exciting, but at the same time, I've got to manage everything. I feel good.
"I just want to start burying some chances. Other than that, we've played really well. So it's been easier coming in when everyone is playing so well and each line is clicking. It's gone pretty much the way I expected."
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