PITTSBURGH - In the spirit of the season, it's time to hand out gifts to people associated with the Pittsburgh Penguins:
* Sidney Crosby: This one is easy: Good health.
With that comes the freedom to play the game with the abandon he always did before January's concussion knocked him out for 10 months.
It looks as though Crosby will wind up playing only 10 games in this calendar year, none of them in the playoffs.
That's bad for him, bad for the Penguins, and bad for the NHL.
Even in the cities where they don't like him, they pay attention to him. People wouldn't hate him in road cities if he wasn't so good.
Crosby came back and absorbed some contact in the first few games he played. He got through that without any problem, and it seemed as though the caution applied to his comeback had paid off.
But then a random elbow in one game left him with headaches and sidelined him again.
It's possible Crosby will get through this current crisis and never have a problem again.
It's also possible that even a seemingly mild blow to the head will send him back to the specialists for a thorough evaluation.
Crosby is only 24. He still has a lot of living to do.
It's a shame that we have to wonder how big a role hockey will play in his life.
* Evgeni Malkin: Consistent possession of that higher gear he seems to have when Crosby is absent.
When Crosby left the lineup in 2008 with a high ankle sprain, Malkin stepped up and took his game to a different level.
In fact, people were speculating that if cap issues ever forced the Penguins to trade one of their superstars, Malkin might be the keeper.
In the years that have followed, we've only seen Malkin sporadically play at that level.
After knee surgery ended last season prematurely, Malkin dedicated himself to a conditioning program that made him stronger.
He still had to fight through some issues with his knee, but as his strength grew, so did his confidence.
Malkin is a bull on the ice, a strong player who is capable of beating anyone one-on-one.
He plays with emotion. He's a skilled playmaker who also has an outstanding scoring touch.
But he seems to save his best work for the times when Crosby is missing.
If he can develop that same focus on a regular basis, he'll be close to unstoppable.
* Marc-Andre Fleury: Fans who respect him as much as teammates do.
Pittsburgh has a long and grand tradition of blaming the goaltender for every goal.
True, the goalie is the last line of defense, but a lot can go wrong before he ever has to confront the puck.
Fleury never blames his teammates, and never seeks the spotlight.
When he recently notched his 200th career victory, he wanted to talk about the great job his defensemen did clearing the front of the net and blocking shots.
Goalies tend to be divas, but Fleury has never been a me-first type.
He does his work, and he doesn't worry about getting the credit.
Teammates love him for his approach and his talent.
If only some fans could be as charitable.
* Kris Letang: Consistency.
Letang had a great first half last season, which had everyone talking about a Norris Trophy.
He slumped in the second half, and finished a distant sixth in the Norris voting.
Letang is a gifted player who just needs to even out his game.
* Chris Kunitz: A full season. Kunitz isn't the biggest guy, and he plays the game physically and fearlessly. Unfortunately, that usually costs him some time because of injuries.
* Craig Adams: Some goals. He's a defensive and penalty killing specialist, so the Penguins are fine if he doesn't score. But what hockey player doesn't want to light the goal lamp once in a while?
* Matt Cooke: Congratulations. He's cleaned up his act and made himself more useful to the team. Now he needs to continue that in the second half and through the playoffs.
* Brent Johnson: A couple of shutouts. It hasn't gone as well this year as it did last season when he got the team through Fleury's rough start. Johnson is a good-natured guy who understands his role, so he deserves some success.
* Pascal Dupuis: Recognition. He's been one of the Penguins' best wingers in the first part of the season, and he's even filled in at center. But does anybody notice?
* James Neal: More of the same. He's the scoring winger the Penguins have been seeking for years. He shoots often, he shoots accurately and he isn't afraid to throw his weight around. He's justified last year's trade that sent promising defenseman Alex Goligoski to Dallas.
* Jordan Staal: Better health. It's a recurring theme, but this former iron man has been knocked out by too many injuries.
* Penguins fans: A long playoff run. Sure, it drains in the bank account, but what's more fun than a run into summer?
* Assistant coach Tony Granato: Another chance to run his own show. Granato was head coach in Colorado, and he was a candidate for the recently-opened job in Los Angeles. His work with the Penguins forwards should earn him another shot.
* Head coach Dan Bylsma: A box of punctuation marks. The HBO series "24/7" showed us he's concise and direct when addressing the team. When he answers media questions, his rambling answers are hard to follow. But maybe that's the plan?