NHL

No rest for Crosby ahead of Pens' game vs. Predators

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked Monday if he would consider hiding the skates of Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby so the NHL's leader in goals can get some down time.

"We might have to," Sullivan joked.

Crosby, who was in Los Angeles over the weekend as an All-Star as well as an all-time league Top 100 honoree, certainly could have rested with a game coming up Tuesday against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena. Instead, he wanted to practice with the Penguins when they reconvened after the break Monday.

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"I gave him the option. He wanted to skate," Sullivan said. "It doesn't surprise me, knowing Sid and how he approaches his job. He just has an appetite to be the best, and so he chose to skate.

"He felt strongly that he wanted to skate."

Sullivan said the Penguins will look at other ways to get a breather for Crosby, who has 28 goals this season and is seven points away from 1,000 for his career.

Having Crosby at his best now that the season is on the far side of the All-Star break is especially key while fellow star center Evgeni Malkin is out.

Malkin, who has a lower-body injury, is expected to miss his second straight game Tuesday and it not skating yet. Malkin sits third in the league with 54 points, one behind Crosby.

Pittsburgh's top defenseman, Kris Letang, stands a good chance of returning against the Predators after missing six games because of a left leg or knee injury.

January has been streaky for Pittsburgh. The month has included a three-game losing streak, a four-game winning streak, and last week before the break, a two-game losing streak.

The Predators, meanwhile, went into the break on a 7-1-1 run and have points in five straight games.

"I think we've turned a corner here a little bit," Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne told the Predators' website. "I feel like throughout the season we've been finding consistency and, as of late, with the way we've been playing, even with our losses, I feel like we've been pretty happy with our games.

"That's a big thing for us, finding (consistency at) the right time in the season, and that has put us in a good spot in the standings, too. We have to respect and protect that position now."

Pittsburgh (30-13-5) and Nashville (24-17-8) sit third in their divisions and are closer to a wild-card spot than to first place.

"We know it will be a sprint," Crosby said of the balance of the season. "These are the games when the intensity starts to get higher."

As most All-Star weekend participants other than Crosby did Monday, Predators defenseman P.K. Subban skipped his team's practice.

Tuesday's game is the first of seven in 13 days for the Predators before they reach their five-day bye week. If nothing else, the busy schedule between breaks offers them a chance to try to match their play in the nine games before last weekend.

"Consistency is a hard thing," team captain Mike Fisher told the club website. "It's been tough to find, but I think now we've kind of established our team. We're starting to play with the confidence we were looking for earlier in the year."

The last time the teams met, Oct. 22 at Nashville, the Predators won 5-1 despite having several players sidelined because of food poisoning.

Backup goaltender Juuse Saros won that night, but it is likely Rinne will be in net Tuesday after the break.

The second period has been Nashville's dominant stretch, as the Predators hold a 61-32 scoring edge in the middle 20 minutes. The Penguins have been particularly dominant in the third period, where they have a 66-37 goal edge. They have 12 wins -- 24 of their 65 points -- when trailing or tied after two periods.