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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 27th (All times Eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (32-21-7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-3), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Fresh off earning his second Olympic gold medal, Sidney Crosby will get back to work for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday when they host the Montreal Canadiens at CONSOL Energy Center.
Crosby famously delivered the overtime game-winner for Team Canada in the 2010 gold medal game against the United States, but unlike four years ago in Vancouver the Canadians didn't need a dramatic finish to repeat as Olympic champions.
Canada won all six of its games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and earned shutout victories in the last two outings, beating the U.S. 1-0 in the semifinals before downing Sweden 3-0 in the battle for gold. Crosby, who captained Canada in Sochi, posted a goal and two assists en route to another Olympic title.
Crosby's fellow Penguins star Evgeni Malkin and Team Russia did not fare nearly as well at the 2014 Olympics, as the host country was eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals.
Sochi didn't end in glory for Pens head coach Dan Bylsma either. He had Team USA off to a 3-0 start in the tournament before the loss to Canada in the semifinals and a subsequent defeat at the hands of Finland kept the Americans off the podium.
"You have to put (the Olympics) behind you," Bylsma recently told the Pens official website. "The task at hand is coming back here and playing for the Penguins. That's the best way to put it behind you."
Pittsburgh returns from the break with a healthy 16-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division, but the club still has injury concerns to deal with. Defenseman Kris Letang is still out due to a stroke suffered prior to the Olympics. Fellow blueliner Paul Martin is out for at least a month after injuring his hand while representing the U.S. in Sochi.
The Pens were 4-1-1 in their final six outings before the Olympics. The club's next game will be played outdoors when Pittsburgh visits the Chicago Blackhawks for Saturday's game at Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears.
Montreal will try to bounce back from a loss in its first game after the Olympics. The Canadiens were handed a 2-1 overtime loss by visiting Detroit on Wednesday to have a three-game winning streak halted.
The Habs did not have No. 1 goaltender Carey Price for their first game back after he suffered a lower-body injury at practice on Wednesday morning. Price, who also will miss tonight's game, anchored Team Canada in its gold medal run in Sochi, posting a 5-0 record, a 0.59 goals against average and .972 save percentage.
Peter Budaj started on Wednesday and he stopped 28 shots before allowing Detroit's Gustav Nyquist to score with just 27.3 seconds remaining in OT.
The Canadiens still managed to notch a point thanks to Brian Gionta's game- tying tally with just 28.7 seconds left in regulation.
"In the third we started to pressure their 'D' a little more and it paid off in the end," Gionta said. "In the first two periods, they were able to come through out of their zone quite easily."
Budaj could get another start tonight for the Habs. Montreal also recalled Dustin Tokarski from its AHL affiliate in Hamilton on Wednesday to take Price's place on the roster.
The Canadiens and Penguins have split a pair of games so far this season, but Pittsburgh has won four of five and seven of its last nine meetings with Montreal.
The Habs, who are playing five of their next six games on the road, have dropped five straight in the Steel City.
02/27 10:49:05 ET
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