When Sidney Crosby went under the knife in November, it seemed like injuries would finally overwhelm the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, the Penguins persevered, combining improved defense with a keyed-in Evgeni Malkin. Now the hockey world must wonder if Pittsburgh’s capable of even more, because the Penguins announced Crosby is back.
If you’re curious about how Crosby will look during his first game since Nov. 9, you’re in luck. NBCSN is carrying the Penguins’ game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
[Wild’s Dumba raises awareness for wildlife relief in Australia.]
The Penguins celebrated Crosby being back with a little video:
He's back. pic.twitter.com/PDEw3RHw3X
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 14, 2020
Crosby generated 17 points in as many games before undergoing surgery. The Penguins were 10-6-1 for 21 points in 17 games at the time. Instead of merely surviving, they thrived without Crosby.
Penguins took off since, imagine what they can do with Crosby back?
Since Nov. 10, the Penguins went 18-6-4 for 40 points in 28 games. That ties the Penguins for second-most points during that stretch, and Pittsburgh’s .714 points percentage tops the entire NHL.
Evgeni Malkin erupted in Crosby’s absence. The ravishing Russian generated 38 points in 26 games, placing him eighth in league scoring during that frame. Malkin also provided strong all-around play.
Stretches like these fuel “What if?” conversations about Geno. Would his star shine even brighter if he didn’t defer to Crosby?
That doesn’t matter all that much to the Penguins, though. The more interesting questions revolve around how well all the pieces will fit with 87 back. Naturally, it could take Crosby some time to shake off rust, although players like him don’t always need the reps mere mortals count on.
The Penguins thriving without Crosby is the exclamation point on the end of the sentence about them being remarkably resilient. But it must be stated again: this team just keeps chugging along. Crosby is far from the only key player they’ve had to cope without.
The Penguins have the 4th best point % and 3rd best goal differential. Here are the only players on their team who have not missed at least 5+ games:
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 13, 2020
Imagine what the Penguins can do closer to full strength? Well, if you tune in to NBCSN on Tuesday night, you’ll get a glimpse of such a reality.
Tuesday night’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Anson Carter. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will call the action from Pittsburgh.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.