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Sidney Crosby to return against Rangers; Sean Avery quits

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby skates at a

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby skates at a team practice at the Bell Centre in Montreal. (Feb. 6, 2012) Credit: AP

Sidney Crosby, the Penguins' world-class center who has been sidelined for the past three months with concussion issues, will return against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Thursday.

"I feel good and the plan is to play Thursday," Crosby said after practice in Pittsburgh Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to getting out there."

Crosby, who has been skating and taking contact, hasn't played since Dec. 5. That was when the concussion issues that sidelined the team's captain for the final 41 games of last season, the playoffs and the first 20 games of this year began recurring.

The Penguins are second, six points behind the Rangers in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division, and have two games remaining with the Blueshirts: Thursday and April 5 in Pittsburgh. Coach Dan Bylsma said that his club would have to win both to have any chance of catching the Rangers.

Crosby, 24, has two goals and 12 points in eight games. The former MVP and NHL scoring leader led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009.

As Crosby prepared to re-enter the game, Sean Avery, 31, was leaving. "I am officially retired; I threw my skates in the Hudson," Avery announced on "Watch What Happens Live" on Bravo TV, and later said he wasn't kidding. A formal statement isn't expected until April 15, when his four-year, $15.5-million contract expires and he files retirement papers with the NHL.

Avery was assigned to the Connecticut Whale for the second time this season Dec. 30. He was left off the playoff roster and told that he no longer needed to report for games or practices. A part-owner of two restaurants who intends to join an ad agency, Avery played 86 games with the Rangers in 2006-07 and 2007-08, with 23 goals, 30 assists and 212 penalty minutes.

He signed with Dallas, was suspended, and returned for 18 games of the 2008-09 season, the next two seasons, and 15 games this year. In that span, Avery played 178 games and had 22 goals, 48 assists and 389 penalty minutes, but didn't make himself a favorite of coach John Tortorella.

New York Sports