Lemieux Crosby

Lemieux on Crosby return: “It’s going to be exciting”

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Mario Lemieux can’t help but get excited about Sidney Crosby’s impending return.

The Penguins co-owner — who, remember, played alongside Crosby during the 2005-06 season — answered some Sid-the-Kid-related queries following his statue unveiling on Wednesday.

Based on what No. 66 had to say, it sounds like the entire organization is fired up about No. 87 coming back into the fold.

“I know he’s anxious to get back. It’s been a difficult three months for him off the ice, but I think he’s turning the corner now, he’s looking a lot better,” Lemieux told NHL.com. “And I’m anxious to see him back.”

In a weird twist, Crosby (24 years old) is almost the same age Lemieux was when he first encountered health problems. After scoring a career-best 199 points in 1988-89, Lemieux only played 59 games the following year, then sat out the two-thirds of the 1990-91 season after having back surgery.

“It’s never fun to be on the sidelines, especially with Sid’s injury” Lemieux said. “It’s a little different than back surgery or hip surgery or anything else out there. You have to be patient. But I think he’s getting better, he’s getting close to being back on the ice.

“And it’s going to be exciting when he gets back.”

Lemieux’s not the only one excited about getting Crosby back — Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma has already started projecting potential linemates. In the past, Crosby’s usually skated with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, but Kunitz has thrived alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal on the Penguins’ top line. Some think the trio should be reunited, while others think Steve Sullivan should take Kunitz’s place and get the chance to play with Crosby.

Bylsma admitted to thinking about it, but said no decisions had been made.

“I think it’s natural to have thought long before (Tuesday) about where Sidney would play and what line he would play on,” Bylsma said. “There’s certainly a lot of thought been given to that — had conversations with Sidney about that, as well. When we have a time where he’s going to be getting back, we’ll have a better idea.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Thursday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Dallas at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET) 

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Blues lead the series 2-1.

San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

Preds smash Sharks in Game 3 to get back in series

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

Just for Men: Sidney Crosby

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People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

… Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.

Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives,’ says Caps’ Beagle

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Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.

The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.

“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”

If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.

Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.

“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.

PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

–The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

–Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

–“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

–Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial: