Sidney Crosby and His Return to the Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff Push

Kevin W. RyanContributor IIIMarch 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 29:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 29, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Sidney Crosby is officially in the lineup for Thursday's matchup with the New York Rangers. Crosby has played just eight games this season, tallying 12 points.  

It simply makes no sense having Crosby return now. The Pens currently lie in a modest 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, and with likely-MVP Evgeni Malkin on the first line, there's no need to further risk Crosby's career at the tail end of the regular season. 

The Penguins have one of the smartest front office's in the league, which is why it is very surprising to see them take this chance now and not wait until the playoffs. It is very clear that Crosby is ready to play at this extremely high level, his four-point performance after missing the previous 10 months serves as perfect evidence. 

Pittsburgh rolls into Madison Square Garden riding along a nine-game win streak. The only plausible connection between Crosby's return is fact that the game is against their division leading rival, the New York Rangers.

Obviously, there is not one franchise in hockey that would not want Sidney Crosby on their playoff roster. Yet, even after the nine game win streak the Penguins still trail the Rangers by four points. The first seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs is likely to face the Capitals, Sabres or Winnipeg Jets.

However, if the Penguins do not finish the season in first place, they are likely to face the other Pennsylvania powerhouse, Philadelphia Flyers.

An easier first round matchup does not automatically yield playoff success. So, in an effort to nab a higher seed in the first round of the playoffs, they are willing to risk the career of their Captain?