Sidney Crosby makes his return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup on Thursday. We've known this for days now, and while the excitement doesn't quite seem as though its at the same level as his last return, there's no doubt that this game is more important in the standings. The Pens are at Madison Square Garden to play the New York Rangers, and a Pittsburgh win could make the Atlantic Division race considerably more interesting.
So, Crosby's back. It's a huge stage, perhaps the biggest in the sporting world, at MSG. It's a gigantic game in terms of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
And just because this game hasn't been hyped enough, Pittsburgh's best defenseman will return too. Kris Letang has been sidelined since late February with concussion symptoms of his own, and while neither he or Crosby will play their full complement of minutes, it's still great for the hottest team in hockey that they have a healthy lineup heading down the stretch. It makes Thursday's game even that much more interesting, too.
How does all of this make the New York Rangers feel, by the way? Via the Bergen (N.J.) Record, here's head coach John Tortorella:
"I don't look at it as a new pressure because we've put pressure on ourselves no matter who we're playing. We don't spend too much time looking what's going on in the standings, we really don't. It's something we addressed early on this year and I think our guys have a maturity about how we go about it here, and that's just worrying about ourselves and worrying about today."
To paraphrase, Torts really doesn't care about the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers will be without Henrik Lundqvist yet again on Thursday night as he misses his second game with the flu. Martin Biron will start in his place. Marc-Andre Fleury, as usual, will go for Pittsburgh.
7 p.m., ET -- Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.
National TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN
Local TV: MSG in New York, ROOT Sports in Pittsburgh