NHL on NBC: No Sid, no problem as Pittsburgh takes on Boston

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Okay, let’s just get it out of the way: We’re not going to see Sidney Crosby when the Penguins face the Bruins on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC). Crosby was ruled out of the game as he recovers from his latest concussion setback, which means the burden of the Pittsburgh falls on Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.

Malkin and Neal have combined for 68 goals and 143 points this season, making them one of the most potent scoring duos in the league — and when you add Jordan Staal to the mix, you’ve got enough goal scoring to compensate for Crosby’s absence. Defensively, Pittsburgh’s shorthanded as well without Kris Letang. He also won’t play Sunday after Letang won’t be playing as he only recently returned to practice after suffering an upper-body injury against Dallas two weeks ago.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury is having a monster season in goal and should get the start on Sunday. While you won’t see Fleury in the top five in goalie stat categories in the NHL, what he’s meant to Pittsburgh this season has been huge and he’s a big reason why the Penguins roll into this game on an eight-game winning streak.

Boston, meanwhile, heads into the second a back-to-back after a frustrating 4-3 loss to Washington on Saturday. The Bruins have been consistently starting Tim Thomas since Tuukka Rask went down with a lower-body injury (4-6 weeks, groin/abdomen) and Thomas seemed to struggle a bit against the Caps — leading some to wonder if recently-acquired Marty Turco could get the start against the Penguins.

Offensively, the Bruins are being paced by big, burly winger Milan Lucic. He heads into Sunday’s game on a six game point streak (two goals, five assists). Forwards David Krejci and Jordan Caron have been hot of late as well, while team point leaders Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin have been quiet.

Of course, the one Bruin to look out for at all times is Zdeno Chara. He’ll stop you on defense, bomb away from the point on offense, and even put you through the glass when checking you. With Chara playing his normal, dominant style of hockey, Johnny Boychuk has been able to step up offensively, providing Boston a nice scoring option from the blueline.