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Pens Thoughts: Crosby heating up, Fleury healthy and more on Sprong

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Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

The Penguins have won a season high 4 straight games, and it’s no secret why. Just check out the NHL’s scoring leaders since Thanksgiving

Sidney Crosby at north of 2 points per game, as well a Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist all lighting up the scoreboard as well.

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Speaking of Crosby and points, he recently just sped past another Hall of Famer on the all-time list, per hockey-reference:

A good month and Crosby could pass Pat Verbeek, Joe Mullen, Ray Whitney and Keith Tkachuk by the time it’s 2018.

Interestingly and fittingly enough, Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are racing up the rankings while very close together. Crosby’s been hunting Ovechkin down on this list ever since the start of the 2013 season and Sid’s mostly return to full health.

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Interesting thoughts on Daniel Sprong from the PG:

“The important thing is, when you put a young player into this league, is he is as prepared as he can be for all aspects of the game,” Rutherford said. “If he’s not, you risk setting the player way back.

“That’s one thing we’ve always been really careful of: What’s the right time to bring guys in?

“That group [Rust, Wilson, Kuhnhackl, Dumoulin, Sheary], those guys were ready before they got called up, but but we made sure it was at a time where they had their confidence and they could deal with setbacks.”

That’s where the Penguins are at with Sprong, who has nine goals in 18 games but was a healthy scratch for Friday’s game and has so far not received a promotion to the NHL

The biggest thing for Sprong remains his play away from the puck, Rutherford said. The Penguins would like to see Sprong improve not only his defense but also awareness and stick/wall play, among other subtle things.

None of that is revelatory, mind you. It’s the same stuff a lot of young players have to work on. The point is just that scoring isn’t enough, especially when five of Sprong’s nine goals have come on the power-play, and that job isn’t available in Pittsburgh.

The process with Sprong is interesting to track and follow. In recent years we have seen Rutherford lament that they elevated talented young players too quickly from the minors, and as a result guys like Derrick Pouliot and Beau Bennett were never able to make smooth transitions in Pittsburgh. The Pens don’t believe Sprong is ready for the NHL yet, so they’re leaving him in the minors. No harm, no foul but of course it will be a well-followed storyline.

Sprong was a healthy scratch for Friday’s game, as a little emphasis for what the team is looking for. (And, I mean they were also playing 3 games in 3 days, so why not give a little rest for one). Anyways, message perhaps received with Sprong scoring a goal and assisting on another on Sunday’s game against Hershey.

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Good news for Marc-Andre Fleury now that we’re 10 days out from the first Golden Knights vs. Pens game

Matt Murray’s window to return might open that game too. Especially if you’re like me and flying out to Vegas for this game, that would be awesome to see a Murray/Fleury matchup after all. Either way, glad to see Fleury (out since October 15) apparently close to returning to game action from his 3rd concussion in the last two years.

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While thinking of health, from this morning’s practice

Pittsburgh’s pretty #blessed to only be down 1 player to injury at the moment. And, as mentioned here last week with favorable December schedule, the Pens get a chance to get some rest, home games and hopefully continue with the winning streak.