Penguins expect Crosby to play every game down the stretch

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Much has been made over how Pittsburgh will handle Sidney Crosby’s minutes in his latest comeback.

But what about the number of games he’ll play?

The Penguins have 14 games over the final 23 days of the regular season, including a three-in-four nights stretch beginning tonight in New York — leading some to theorize that Crosby should take the occasional maintenance day (or, safety precaution day.)

But that’s not going to happen, according to Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.

“There’s really no thought in my mind that he’s not going to play in all 14 games,” Bylsma told ESPN. “Would we think about certain scenarios? Maybe. But like I said, am I going to ask Sidney Crosby to not play in Philadelphia? It doesn’t seem like that’s a likely possibility in any regard.”

After the three-games-in-four-nights stretch — against the Rangers, Devils and Flyers — it’ll be hard for Pittsburgh not to look ahead to its final four games of the season. From April 1-7 the Penguins play the Flyers, Bruins, Rangers then Flyers again in a quartet of games that could decide pecking order in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

All four promise to be heated affairs, though Crosby isn’t ready to start looking so far ahead. He’s just trying to put tonight’s game against New York in context.

“You’re excited to get back out there,” Crosby said after today’s morning skate. “This is a big game. If anything, you’re trying to make it as normal as possible, if that’s possible.”

As for what he expects moving forward?

“I don’t expect to be where I was 14 months ago, but I expect to be at a pretty good level, create things and contribute. I’ll get a better idea of where I’m at once I start playing games, but I’m not going out there just to kill time.”