Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby’s first game back will be…

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As discussed yesterday on PHT, Sidney Crosby continues to play coy on when he’ll return to game action. No. 87 raised eyebrows by saying Friday’s game against Dallas is a possibility — eyebrows that were dropped when he added all of Pittsburgh’s upcoming games are possibilities.

Thanks, Sid.

But since Crosby opened up Pandora’s Box, we should probably dive in (there’s gotta be a better way to say that.)

Here are Pittsburgh’s games over the next 10 days, with reasons why each might be the return date for Crosby’s comeback game.

Fri. Nov. 11 vs. Dallas: People have been circling this one on the calendar for a while. That includes yours truly, who actually made the “circling the calendar” hand gesture on NBC’s Sportstalk two weeks ago. I’m like a mime.

The Pens are in the midst of a six-day break, giving Crosby plenty of opportunity to practice with his mates. Other things to consider: This could be a matchup of the NHL’s top two teams (Pittsburgh first, Dallas second at the time of writing) and will be the first time James Neal, Matt Niskanen and Alex Goligoski face their former clubs since the Dallas-Pittsburgh trade back in February.

Sat. Nov 12 at Carolina: Even though Pens GM Ray Shero indicated he’d prefer Crosby return at home, having him debut on the road would definitely deflect some pressure. Of course, the organization would likely be ripped to pieces by the fans if this happened, especially the day after the Pens played at Consol. Pretty sure this one isn’t happening.

(Pittsburgh did sweep Carolina at the RBC Center last year, mind you.)

Tue. Nov 15 vs. Colorado: Big television exposure (game will be shown on both Versus and TSN2) with the potential for even bigger offense. The Avs seem to have a knack for engaging in wild affairs on the road — prime examples include their 7-1 win in Ottawa, 6-5 shootout loss in Montreal, 5-4 shootout win in Chicago and 7-6 overtime loss in Dallas.

Thur. Nov 17 at Tampa Bay: The Lightning eliminated the Crosby-less (and, Malkin-less) Penguins from last year’s playoffs in stunning fashion. Pittsburgh jumped out to a seemingly comfortable 3-1 series lead before Tampa stormed back to win the final three…by a combined score of 13-4. This will also be the first meeting since the Lightning eliminated the Pens in Game 7.

Other intriguing dates:

Mon. Nov 21 versus New York Islanders: Bitter rivalry carrying over from last year. Also, a home game.

Sat. Nov 26 at Montreal: Return against Crosby’s boyhood team — in Montreal, no less.

Thurs. Dec 1 at Washington: Crosby vs. Ovechkin. ‘Nuff said.

So, when do you think Crosby will return? Have your say in the comments section.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.