Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Sidney Crosby has a great sense of “the moment.” On his first shift, he helped set up a glorious chance for Chris Kunitz—and should have had an assist when Kunitz rang a shot of the crossbar. Not to worry though. On Crosby’s second shift, he streaked into the Islanders zone on his backhand and went top shelf over rookie netminder Anders Nilsson. Welcome to the NHL Andres.
Second shift. First shot. First goal. Yep, he’s still pretty good. Check it out for yourself:
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In the midst of Crosby mania on Monday afternoon, Brendan Shanahan had a little dirty work to do in New York. San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe was fined $2,500 for his slash on Stars’ defenseman Stephane Robidas on Saturday night. While Robidas was engaged with Sharks captain Joe Thornton, Clowe reached around and delivered a dangerous slash to Robidas wrist (insert “slap on wrist joke” here). Here’s video of the finable offense:
Clowe wasn’t the only player that felt Shanahan’s wrath on Monday afternoon. Sabres pest Patrick Kaleta was also fined $2,500 for his transgressions on Saturday. Kaleta received a high-sticking penalty for his stick work on Derek Morris—the minor penalty was the least of his concerns. If Kaleta keeps getting fined and suspended, he’s going to be paying the Players Assistance Fund just to play in NHL games.
Even without Sidney Crosby in the lineup, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the more successful teams in the league this season. With the announcement that Crosby will return the ice on Monday against the Islanders (yes, on Versus), the next challenge for head coach Dan Bylsma will be to get his team to play with the same kind of intensity and desperation they’ve played over the last 11 months.
Who knew that one of the best players in the world returning to the lineup could pose problems.
Bylsma talked about how the Penguins have played with desperation without Crosby. “We believe that’s been a big part of our team, a big part of how we play,” Bylsma said about his team. “We think that’s how we play as a team. I know our players are proud of that. They believe in that. That’s part of what we bring to the rink every day. I think its part of the expectations for the players in that room, from each other. That expectation is going to be there when Sidney Crosby gets back there as well. Are there concerns? As a coach, we don’t want to be in a situation where we just stand around and get caught up in watching Sidney Crosby play. I think have seen him in practice, we’ve seen him do some pretty crazy things and we’ve seen him at a high pace. But I think it’s not going to be the first time we’ve seen him. We do have to engage and we do have to get to our game and we do have to be ready to play like our team can.”
Pittsburgh will need to avoid a possible letdown over the next handful of games. Even though he’ll have plenty of adrenaline flowing through his veins on Monday night, it’s always the second, third, and/or fourth games that reveal rust from a player that has missed an extended period of time. The Penguins will need to play the same brand of hockey that has put them atop of the Eastern Conference until Crosby works himself into game shape. If they can stay the course, they’ll be that much better later in the season.
For the time being, the Penguins plan on bringing Crosby along slowly. The superstar captain has already said he expects to play around 12 minutes in his first game back, but Bylsma was quick to add that any ice time limitations would just be guidelines. Regardless, he’ll be out on the ice with wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis—probably in a third line role. Luckily for the Pens, they’ll still have the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal to fill the top two center roles for awhile until Crosby fully feels comfortable.
One thing we know is that he’s ready to get back on the ice. Bylsma continued, “The only thing I can really say is that is that I would liken it to the sound you hear in the voice of a player that’s going to go play in their first National Hockey League game,” he said about Crosby’s excitement. “He’s excited. He’s anxious. He’s been wanting to play hockey for a long time.”
Fans are excited as well.
Last season, the Florida Panthers were the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Right behind them (or ahead of them, depending on your point of view), was the New Jersey Devils that were in the midst of their worst season in years. The link between the two teams goes much further than futility though—Devils head coach had an up-close-and-personal look at the Panthers last season. After all, he was their head coach.
Monday night’s game is more than just a regular game between two improving teams. For DeBoer, it’ll mark the first time he’s returned to South Beach since he was fired last April. He compares his return to that of a traded player.
“It’s a little strange coming back,” DeBoer said. “You kind of pour three years of your life into a job. To walk in through the visitors’ entrance I’m sure you go through the same emotions as a traded player. It’s a little strange but I’m excited. I feel good about where I’m at and I’m sure they feel good about where they’re at.”
Florida’s move to fire DeBoer has worked out nicely for both teams. The Panthers have been competing with the Capitals for the Southeast Division lead—not bad for a team that has had the 3rd pick in the last two drafts. New coach Kevin Dineen has the new Panthers building chemistry faster than anyone could have reasonably predicted and has fans dreaming of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
In New Jersey, DeBoer has brought some stability to the coaching position that has more changes than most people’s fantasy teams. All fans have to do is think back 12 months ago to know how badly things can go for a new coach in New Jersey. John MacLean showed what NOT to do; now Pete DeBoer is showing how successful a Devils coach can be in his first few months. He must have taken a few notes from Jacques Lemaire.
Monday night’s game should be fun to watch—because DeBoer has already said that the game means more to him. It’s refreshing to hear a coach say something other than, “it’s just another game.” He wants to win because he wants to beat his old team. He wants to win because he wants to stay on a roll.
There’s a shocker: a coach just wants to win.
TJ Oshie missed practice this afternoon after suffering a wrist injury in the first period of the Blues game against the Minnesota Wild. St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock said the team is just being cautious and is hopeful that Oshie will be able to play on Tuesday night against the Kings at Scottrade Center.
Oshie looked pretty good for a guy who was hurt in the first period of the game on Saturday. He scored a goal in regulation and netted a goal in the shootout for good measure. Despite Oshie’s efforts, the Blues still fell to the Western Conference dominating Minnesota Wild. Still, St. Louis is 4-0-2 in the six games since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench.
The Blues called up Brett Sterling in the event that Oshie won’t be able to go this week. After playing the Kings at home on Tuesday, they in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and against the Flames at home on Friday. It doesn’t matter if the Blues are hot: every team can use their entire team when they have to play three games in four nights.
At least the news of Oshie’s injury comes while the team is in the midst of their best hockey streak of the season. It could be worse.