Crosby returns to Pens' lineup Thursday Staff with files

3/26/2008 4:05:28 PM

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will return to the lineup Thursday night when the team hosts the New York Islanders.

"I am playing," he told reporters on Wednesday. "My ankle feels great and my conditioning is as good as it can get, really, without playing. It always takes a few games, but I feel good."

Crosby was the NHL's leading scorer when he badly sprained his right ankle while sliding hard into the boards Jan. 18 against Tampa Bay.

He missed 21 games before coming back against the Lightning on March 4, playing three games until pain returned in his ankle. He sat out Pittsburgh's last seven games.

Crosby has 22 goals and 67 points in 49 games this season.

"I hope to be a little bit quicker than before with being out a month and a half," he said Wednesday.

"It's going to be more physical hockey down the stretch, but I expect to come along a little faster. Last time, as far as conditioning and game shape and being hit, I wasn't where I needed to be. You can't get that unless you play. It doesn't matter how much you practice. Being hit, falling down, backchecking and things like that, that's just stuff you have to go through. It got better with each game and I hope it's that way this time, too."

Crosby is expected to skate on a line with Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.