Crosby: No hard feelings toward Ranger
As we found out after Pittsburgh's morning skate, Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby will return today after missing 21 games with a high ankle sprain sustained Jan. 18 in Pittsburgh against the Lightning. You recall the play: Crosby is tied up with Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger, lost his footing and slid into the end boards behind the Tampa Bay net.
Stories that went out on a national wire service that day put blame on Ranger and claimed he slashed Crosby, causing him to fall. But Crosby today said he never believed Ranger meant anything but to defend the play and believed the whole incident was just an accident.
"I just slid into the boards,'' Crosby said, shaking his head when asked about Ranger.
Crosby, who despite the layoff, comes into the game tied for 21st in the league with 63 points on 20 goal and 43 assists, was more interested in talking about playing a game.
"It's nice to get back with the guys,'' he said. "It's been a long time. I'm trying to work hard to get back and get the feel and things like that.''
Crosby said he began feeling better last week while skating in Pittsburgh while the Penguins were on a road trip. He said the biggest change was a lessening of the pain and a strengthening of the ankle. He said he expects he will tweak the ankle again during the season.
"But I started feeling better and feel pretty strong right now,'' Crosby said. "So I figure, it's time.''
More from the morning skate: The media scrum was big enough in the Penguins locker room that Evgeni Malkin, who sits next to Crosby had to stand aside and wait for Crosby's interview to be done before he could sit down. Sun Sports' Paul Kennedy, who was primarily in Malkin's way apologized to the big Russian, who mumbled, "No problem.'' ... Mike Smith will start in goal for the Lightning. After playing three straight games after being acquired from the Stars, Smith took the option and did not skate this morning. "I'm not one who has to get all loosened up in the morning,'' he said. "Just come in and do some stretching and get some work done and come tonight with a clear mind and some energy to go.'' ... Defenseman Filip Kuba (knee) will sit out his third straight game. ... Penguins defenseman Darryl Sydor, who played for the Lightning's 2004 Cup team said it is "sad'' to see how far Tampa Bay has fallen. "With the lock out and salary cap, it was a crash course in how to keep our team together. It's tough to look over there and know that just a few years ago we won the Stanley Cup.'' ... Coach John Tortorella said at some point this month, the team likely will call up defensemen Matt Smaby and Vladimir Mihalik from AHL Norfolk to get a look. ... Left wing Jussi Jokinen averaged 12:43 of ice time with the Stars. He's getting 20:22 with Tampa Bay. ... Tortorella said his focus still is on winning games. "I'm still looking at short term. I can't stand losing. The losing that's going on here (stinks). I'm not going to go into a total evaluation situation and continue losing hockey games. We're paid to win hockey games, and if that's not the way you're supposed to handle it, so be it.'' ... Mike Hasenfratz, who was part of the crew that refereed Saturday's lopsidedly called game with the Hurricanes, will call tonight's game as well.