Sidney Crosby to return tonight against Islanders

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PITTSBURGH -- Normally, the prospect of facing Sidney Crosby in the Penguins captain's first game in 10 months might draw the Islanders' attention.

But they're much too concerned with their own game, or lack thereof, to worry about the fanfare that Crosby will bring to Consol Center Monday night.

Saturday night's 6-0 shelling by the Bruins erased any of the momentum or good feeling the Islanders generated in their 4-3 win over the Canadiens two nights earlier. Their 2-8-3 slide has the players and the coaching staff searching for motivation.

General manager Garth Snow decided to put goaltender Al Montoya on injured reserve with a strained hamstring and recall forward David Ullstrom from Bridgeport. Coach Jack Capuano said Sunday night that Ullstrom, who has 12 goals and two assists in 17 games with the Sound Tigers, and Kyle Okposo will play against the Penguins.

That means two players, most likely wingers, will come out. Capuano said he still was working on new line combinations, but something has to change for a team that has scored a league-low 35 goals in 17 games and has been shut out four times.

"It's a situation where, as an athlete, you've got to have that will to compete," Capuano said, returning to the theme of his angry postgame comments from Saturday night. "All we want them to do is work hard. If mistakes come from hard work, you can handle that.

"We'll have some changes [Monday night]. We have to try and get things going offensively."

Capuano said "there's a thought" to starting rookie goaltender Anders Nilsson, who allowed three goals in 40 minutes in relief of Rick DiPietro on Saturday. But that seems unlikely, given the media spotlight with Crosby returning. The game will be on Versus (and still will be shown on MSG locally), which originally was supposed to show the Bruins-Canadiens game, and scores of national media will descend on the arena.

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Okposo, who sat out all three home games last week, also will be relied upon for a spark.

"This was the plan all along with Kyle -- this was the date he was coming back," Capuano said. "We wanted him to get away, clear his head and just watch for a bit. We need him."

At this point, the Islanders need all the help they can get.

Notes & quotes:Penguins coach Dan Bylsma announced that Crosby, who has been practicing since the beginning of this season, will center a line with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz in his first game since Jan. 5. "I think there's going to be some time before he totally feels comfortable and back to the level he was at," Bylsma said. "It's easy to see in practice that he's the best player on the ice. But it's going to take some time."

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