It wasn’t supposed to be a Penguins-Islanders battle on Versus tonight (7 p.m. ET) but with Sidney Crosby making his return to action after missing 10 months with a concussion, things change. With the game’s biggest star making his return to game action, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were already roaring this season, all of a sudden become a lot scarier to play against.
Crosby will cruise the ice with a pair of familiar linemates in Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Nothing beats welcoming him back to action like having his old running crew on the wings for him to roll with. By doing that, coach Dan Bylsma can also keep his line of Steve Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal together. While Kunitz and Dupuis might not stand out as big time scorers, Crosby will be able to help lift their game even if he ends up being a bit rusty.
The Penguins’ opponents in this battle, the Islanders, are taking a backseat to all the Crosby headlines and they might be happy about that for a good reason. The Isles have been terrible of late and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Rick DiPietro is now the man in goal and having to deal with Crosby and the Penguins is about as difficult of an assignment as it gets.
In his career against the Islanders, Crosby has 18 goals and 44 assists in 33 games. Crosby’s success against the Islanders is only matched by what he’s done against the Flyers as he’s scored 62 points against both teams in his career. Just so long as DiPietro doesn’t threaten to fight anyone, things might stay somewhat normal tonight.
Bylsma says that Crosby won’t get thrown to the wolves and play 20 minutes or more tonight believing that he’ll get around 15 minutes or so. Good luck keeping him off the ice though. If Crosby looks like he hasn’t missed a day, never mind 10 months, they’ll be hard pressed to hold him back.
With their season on the line on Friday night the Philadelphia Flyers are making a change in goal.
Michal Neuvirth, who has played just 59 minutes of NHL hockey since Feb. 18, will get the Game 5 start in goal when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Neuvirth replaced Brian Elliott in Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss on Wednesday night after Elliott gave up three goals on 17 shots, the second time he was benched in the first four games. The Flyers have already used three goalies in this series with Elliott, Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek all getting playing time. None of them have played well.
Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres have been named as the three finalists for the 2018 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the NHL announced on Friday. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.
The Case for Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers center certainly has the “high standard of playing ability” part down with a season that saw him lead the team with 78 points and finish tied for third in goals with 27. Barkov played the fifth-most minutes (1,743:32) among NHL forwards and only picked up seven minor penalties. This is the second time he’s been named a finalist in the last three seasons.
The Case for William Karlsson: Karlsson had a monster of a season with 43 goals and 78 points during the Golden Knights’ historic first year. In playing 1,534:47, the 25-year-old forward racked up only 12 PIMs. Should Karlsson win, he would become the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural season since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers won the Byng and Hart Trophy and in 1979-80.
The Case for Ryan O'Reilly: O’Reilly missed one game this season and logged 1,686:10 of ice time for the Sabres. He recorded only one penalty all season, way back on Oct. 24 versus Detroit, a slashing call. His one penalty is the fewest among NHL players who suited up for at least 41 games this season. He’s a previous winner having taken home the trophy in 2014 while a member of the Colorado Avalanche.