Penguins’ Crosby to play Thursday

PITTSBURGH — Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will return to the ice Thursday night, when Pittsburgh faces the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Crosby, battling concussion problems, hasn’t played since Dec. 5, and has only played in eight games this season. He also missed the final 41 games of last season, as well as a first-round, seven-game playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning with the same issues.

Crosby has two goals and 12 points this season. He scored those goals in his first game of the year, a 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Nov. 21 at home.

His return is well timed, and against the right opponent. The surging Penguins trail the Rangers by just four points for the overall lead in the Eastern Conference.

Many thought the return would come on Sunday, when the Penguins played host to the Boston Bruins on national television. But after practice on Saturday, Crosby said he still wasn’t quite ready after missing more than three months when the symptoms resurfaced in early December. The 24-year-old former MVP was cleared for contact last week and hinted he could play against the Bruins, but to no avail.

The Penguins practiced Tuesday, and will do so again Wednesday in Pittsburgh. The pivotal three-game road trip begins in New York and features stops in New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Crosby went back on the injured reserve when the concussion symptoms returned following a loss to the Bruins on Dec. 5.

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