Quite a day at the Penguins' morning skate.
First, Sidney Crosby is back. He will return to the lineup tonight and is expected to center a line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis on the lines. He also assumed a Chris Kunitz' spot on the team's top power play unit. If the Penguins have a man advantage, he will likely take the ice with James Neal, Steve Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.
Another unexpected surprise this morning is the return of defenseman Zbynek Michalek. He will return to the lineup after having been sideline nearly a month. He has not played since suffering a broken finger on his right hand when he blocked a shot by New Jersey forward Rod Pelly Oct. 22. He is expected to be paired with his usual defensive partner Paul Martin.
We have a chat with Michalek on PG+. When he was kidded about having Crosby steal his spotlight, Michalek responded: "Let him have all the attention. I’m just glad to be here."
The Penguins are expected to scratch Steve MacIntyre, Alexandre Picard and Joe Vitale.
Their expected lines and defensive pairings for tonight are:
Steve Sullivan - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Zbynek Michalek - Paul Martin
Mat Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
Crosby spoke this morning:
As did head coach Dan Bylsma:
The Islanders had their only surprise this morning when head coach Jack Capuano announced he will start rookie Anders Nilsson tonight. Nilsson will be making his first NHL start. Nilsson made his NHL debut Saturday when he relieved starter Rick DiPietro in a 6-0 loss to the Bruins. Nilsson played 40 minutes and allowed three goals on 17 shots.
The Islanders will insert forwards Kyle Okposo and David Ullstrom into the lineup in place of forwards Blake Comeau and Nino Niederreiter.
Capuano would not say how his line combinations would be reconfigured. Consider this a semi-educated guess:
Matt Moulston - John Tavares - Michael Grabner
Brian Rolston - Frans Nielsen - P.A. Parenteau
Kyle Okposo - Marty Reasoner - David Ullstrom
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Jay Pandolfo
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina
(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)