(AP) — Sidney Crosby said he expects to play again for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. It just won’t be in their next contest.

With more than their superstar missing due to injury, the visiting Penguins look to build on their latest victory while trying for a third straight win over the New York Islanders on Friday night.

Out since taking hits to the head in successive games against Washington in the Winter Classic and Tampa Bay on Jan. 5, Crosby said Thursday he intends to play this season. However, there is no timetable for his return.

“I’m getting better, it’s just slow,” said Crosby, who has 32 goals and 34 assists in 41 games. “Everything is improving, just at a slower rate than I’d want it to be.”

The Penguins (35-17-4) improved to 9-5-1 without Crosby and avoided a third straight loss with a 2-1 overtime victory over Los Angeles on Thursday.

In addition to Crosby, the Penguins have lost star Evgeni Malkin to a season-ending knee injury and forward Chris Kunitz for at least another four to six weeks with a lower-body injury.

Mike Comrie, Mark Letestu and Arron Asham also are sidelined while Matt Cooke will serve the second of his four-game suspension for his hit on Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin on Tuesday.

Those absences have likely contributed to Pittsburgh totaling three goals over the last three games.

Brett Sterling, one of four players called up from the AHL prior to Thursday’s contest, opened the scoring before Jordan Staal won it with his fourth in overtime.

“It is nice when those guys come up and they are ready to play,” Staal told the Penguins’ official website.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 32 saves Thursday, and backup Brent Johnson have each played a big part in shutting out New York (18-29-7) in the last two meetings, both in Pittsburgh.

Johnson won his fourth straight against the Islanders by stopping 20 shots in his last start overall, a 3-0 win over New York on Feb. 2. He shared a shutout with Fleury after being penalized in the final minute following a fight with Rick DiPietro in which Johnson leveled the Islanders netminder with one punch.

The injury-prone DiPietro will miss another three to five weeks with broken facial bones.

Fleury, an All-Star, made 29 saves in a 1-0 victory over Islanders on Jan. 25.

While Pittsburgh has never shut the same opponent three straight times, the Islanders are trying to avoid being blanked by the same team in three consecutive games since New Jersey did it from March 30-Dec. 10, 2003.

However, New York’s only victory in four games against Pittsburgh this season was 2-1 in a shootout at home Dec. 29.

Rookie Michael Grabner has been held scoreless against the Penguins this season, but has 10 goals with five assists his last 13 games overall. He scored twice in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout win at Montreal.

“He’s a dangerous player when he gets moving,” New York coach Jack Capuano said.

John Tavares, who scored his 19th goal Thursday, has four goals and two assists in four home games versus Pittsburgh.

Two days after he was pressed into making his NHL debut in place of injured goaltender Kevin Poulin, New York’s Mikko Koskinen made 37 saves for his first win.

Updated February 11, 2011
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