Sidney Crosby's return means Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman can finally stop hearing questions about hit

TAMPA — One byproduct of Sidney Crosby's return is the end of questions for Lightning D Victor Hedman.

Hedman's Jan. 5 check that pushed Crosby's head into the glass was portrayed by some as causing the concussion that sidelined the Penguins superstar for almost 11 months.

That narrative, though, ignored Crosby being brutalized four days earlier by a vicious shoulder hit to the head by then-Capitals C David Steckel.

"It's going to be a relief to put that behind me, even though it hasn't bothered me as much as people think," Hedman said. "It's just good that (Crosby) is back. You never want a guy to be out for so long."

Hedman was approached by television and print reporters on Monday, when Crosby played his first game since Hedman's relatively light hit from behind.

Hedman also was asked about it Thursday, when there was speculation Crosby might play that night against Tampa Bay at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I can understand people asking me about it," Hedman said. "The last body contact on the ice he had was against me, so it's natural I'm getting a lot of attention about having the last hit on Sidney. It's just one of those things you have to handle."

MORE CROSBY: Lightning coach Guy Boucher, asked about Crosby's four-point game in his return against the Islanders, said, "He looked like the junior I coached in Rimouski, just having a ball out there."

"Good for him and his team," C Steven Stamkos said. "I don't know if it's good for the teams in the East."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RW Steve Downie (upper body) did not play the third Tuesday. He is day to day.

BIG CHANGE: With a goal and assist Saturday against the Devils, W Ryan Shannon was promoted Tuesday to a line with C Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis — at least to start.

"One thing I've learned about the way things go is (Boucher) picks the guys as the game goes on, so every shift is a competition to play well," said Shannon, who has a goal and five points in 14 games and finished Tuesday with 15:33 of ice time and zero shots on goal.

The move acknowledges Shannon finally is catching on to Tampa Bay's system.

"Being hesitant and always thinking about playing the system takes you out of the instincts you're supposed to have," Shannon said. "Once I become more familiar with the system, I can just play."

NO CHANGE: The defensive pairing of Matt Gilroy and Eric Brewer will remain for now, Boucher said.

Hedman had been Brewer's partner, but Gilroy stepped in Nov. 6 after Hedman was injured. Hedman has been paired with Brett Clark in the four games since his return. Gilroy has stayed with Brewer.

"The fact that Gilroy is able to do it, it's given us more depth," Boucher said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay has been outscored 24-12 in first periods and allowed the first goal in 13 of its 20 games. … Bruno Gervais and F Blair Jones were scratched.

Sidney Crosby's return means Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman can finally stop hearing questions about hit 11/22/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:23am]

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