The Pittsburgh Penguins are on a roll and they’re about to get the best player in hockey back on the ice.
The Penguins have won nine in a row after a 5-2 victory Sunday over the Boston Bruins in Pittsburgh. A 21-4-1 run has moved them four points behind the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers. This week, they’re expected to welcome back captain and former MVP Sidney Crosby, who has missed the past three months with concussion symptoms.
The return of one of the NHL‘s elite players to a team peaking at the right time for a playoff run has given Penguins ticket prices a boost on the secondary market. The winning streak has hiked the average resale ticket price of Pens game at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh to $187.32, according to ticket search site TiqIQ.com.
The Penguins have the ninth-highest average face value ticket price in the NHL at $63.06. Their home games are consistently sold out and Pittsburgh is 10th in home attendance in the NHL, averaging 18,559 a game. The only reason the Pens don’t rank higher is that the teams ahead of them have arenas with larger capacities
Crosby was cleared for contact after practicing last week, so buyers speculating he might return for the match-up with the Stanley Cup champion Bruins, plus the winning streak, sent TiqIQ’s average secondary market ticket price for that game to $222.77, with “get-in” prices at $97.
The Penguins (42-21-5) now begin a three-game road trip where they’ll face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, the New Jersey Devils in Newark on Saturday and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly next Sunday. Their nine-game winning streak is the NHL’s longest since the Bruins’ 10-gamer in November 2011.
After practicing again this week, Crosby now is targeting the Rangers’ game for his return. Adding his comeback to the showdown between Eastern Conference powers would make it one of the most anticipated — and expensive — regular season games of the season.
The teams meet only one more time after Thursday. That comes April 5, the next-to-last game of the regular season, in Pittsburgh.
Widely regarded as the NHL’s best player, Crosby, 24, the former Hart Trophy winner and Canadian Olympic hero, has spent most of the past two seasons recovering from a concussion that came from hard hits he received in games in January 2011. One of those hits was a collision with the Washington Capitals‘ David Steckel in the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
He missed the last 41 games of last season and the playoffs, then missed the first 20 games of this season. When he returned Nov. 21, he did so in spectacular fashion. Sid the Kid scored a goal five minutes into the game and added another goal and two assists in a 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders at the Consol Energy Center.
Penguins fans are no doubt hoping for that kind of performance this week. After scoring 12 points in eight games after his return in November, Crosby went out again with concussion symptoms after taking some hard hits in a Dec. 5 game against the Bruins. The Penguins’ recent surge has allowed the team to take a cautious approach to getting their superstar back into the lineup. Doctors have found and treated a soft tissue injury in Crosby’s neck that adds to the concussion effects.
Without Crosby this season, Pittsburgh has gone 37-19-4. With 15 games left before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, and in a tight race with the Rangers for the East’s top spot and home-ice advantage in the postseason, his return couldn’t come at a better time.
Pittsburgh is also expected to get defenseman Kris Letang back soon. Letang is also recovering from concussion symptoms after a hit from the Dallas Stars‘ Eric Nystrom in a Feb. 29 game. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (37-14-3) has his own eight-game winning streak and continues to be solid in the net.
In Crosby’s absence, lines anchored by Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal have picked up the scoring slack. Malkin had three assists against the Bruins to reach the 500-point mark for his career. He leads the NHL with 84 points.