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Playoffs 2013Sidney Crosby back, but James Neal out for Penguins

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 | 02:23 PM

Categories: New York Islanders, PIT vs NYI, Pittsburgh Penguins, Playoffs 2013

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James Neal left in the second period of Game 1 and did not return. It’s suspected he has an ankle injury. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) James Neal left in the second period of Game 1 and did not return. It’s suspected he has an ankle injury. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Even with Sidney Crosby returning, the Penguins won't be at full strength for Game 2 against the Islanders. Defenceman Brooks Orpik remains out, and right wing James Neal will also be unable to play due to a suspected ankle injury.
There was nothing particularly stunning about the news, but it still sent shockwaves through the hockey world.

Sidney Crosby is back.

Almost five weeks after sustaining a broken jaw against the Islanders, Crosby will return to the lineup Friday night against the same opponent in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series.

Pittsburgh won Game 1 without Crosby, 5-0.

Now they have their leader.

"We have to make sure we don't just sit back and watch him," left wing Tanner Glass said. "But he's the best player in the world, so it's a big thing for us, obviously."

Crosby said he was given medical clearance to play on Thursday.

He skated with the top power play and regular linemates Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz during each of the past two days, adding fuel to the belief that Crosby was close to returning.

"I think that if a doctor clears you to play, that gives you a lot of confidence going out there knowing that you can play and take a hit, so I'm not concerned," Crosby said of playing with the newly fixed jaw.

Crosby has a history of making big returns from injuries, and the most famous of them all came against the Islanders.

On Nov. 21, 2011, Crosby played for the first time in almost one year after dealing with career-threatening concussion issues.

He scored less than six minutes into that game against the Islanders and finished with two goals and two assists. Crosby, in fact, has scored 75 points in 41 games against the Islanders, his highest point total against any NHL team.

"He's a great player," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "We know this place is going to be loud tonight and that the Penguins are going to be fired up."

Capuano also mentioned that perhaps the Islanders will be charged up because of the additional buzz Crosby's return will produce.

He had better hope so, because the Penguins were clearly the better team in Game 1.

Although the Penguins didn't seem overconfident in any fashion before Game 2, there was a sense that even they were excited to see what Crosby might do.

Defenceman Douglas Murray only played a handful of games with Crosby before he was injured. Murray, who spent all of his career in a talented San Jose locker room, admits playing with Crosby is a little different.

"I find myself and the other guys just giggling on the bench when we see some of the plays and some of the passes he makes," Murray said.

For the Islanders, Crosby's return might be no laughing matter.

Neal, Orpik out


However, the Penguins still won't be at full strength. Defenceman Brooks Orpik will remain out of the lineup for Game 2 and the Penguins will also be without right wing James Neal, who has an injury to his right leg, likely some kind of ankle sprain.

Neal was injured in Game 1 and did not return after a second period hit saw his right skate get momentarily stuck in the boards. He was seen limping noticeably out of Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

"We still aren't at full strength with Nealer out and I think that will have everyone's attention," Glass said. "We know we need to step it up because he's out of the lineup."

Line combinations

Pittsburgh

Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis
Bennett-Malkin-Iginla
Morrow-Sutter-Cooke
Glass-Jokinen-Adams

Eaton-Letang
Martin-Engelland
Murray-Niskanen

Goalie: Fleury

New York

Moulson-Tavares-Boyes
Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo
Grabner-Aucoin-McDonald
Martin-Reasoner-Cizikas

Hickey-Visnovsky
MacDonald-Hamonic
Streit-Strait

Goalie: Nabokov

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