PITTSBURGH - Now that Sidney Crosby is back, what do the Pittsburgh Penguins do with him?
That's part of coach Dan Bylsma's mission over the last three weeks of the season, integrating Crosby into the lineup.
It's a little trickier than it might otherwise be, given the success the Penguins have been enjoying.
They have two lines producing at a high level and the power play has been successful, too.
Crosby has been out so long that the Penguins have become adept at getting by without him.
But it would be foolish to minimize what Crosby's skill can mean to this team through a potentially long playoff run.
Bylsma used Crosby's first game to conduct some experimentation. He even had Crosby playing on the wing for a few shifts.
That's one idea that should be shelved soon. Crosby is a playmaker, and he's most effective at the center position.
When Crosby was a rookie, Eddie Olczyk was coaching the Penguins. Wayne Gretzky, who was putting together a Canadian team for international competition, stopped by a practice to watch Crosby.
He saw him work, then turned to someone and asked incredulously, "They have him playing on the wing?"
Gretzky, maybe the greatest center the game has seen, knew that was a waste of Crosby's considerable passing skills.
The goal will be to find wingers who can be effective working with him.
Imagine that you're a playoff opponent, and you're gearing for a series against the Penguins. Every team has a checking line. If the shutdown line is assigned to Evgeni Malkin's line, that puts Crosby's line against mere mortals, and that's a sizable advantage for the Penguins.
Bylsma and his staff will be watching game tapes even more closely than usual to see if they can find suitable partners for Crosby.
Having those two top lines ready to go at the start of the playoffs is the main priority for the rest of the season.
The Penguins beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 last Sunday, a decisive win that started with a three-goal first period.
They jumped on the Bruins from the start, playing a physical style with an especially diligent forecheck.
Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' giant defenseman, picked himself up off the ice a couple of times.
As impressive as the start was, it may have been a different game if it hadn't been for Marc-Andre Fleury's goaltending in the second period.
The Penguins let up, and the Bruins came to life. They never got closer than two goals, but that was because of Fleury.
He may be the Penguins' most under-appreciated player by fans. The players know what he does for them.
His good nature belies what a competitor he is. He consistently refuses to take credit and is in the habit of praising teammates for blocking shots and making his job easier.
Don't be fooled: Fleury may not post the glitzy numbers that some other goalies do, but he has a knack for making big saves at big times.
Malkin should be the NHL's Most Valuable Player this season, so it figures that he's the Penguins' MVP as well.
But Fleury isn't very far behind him.
The unveiling of the Mario Lemieux statue led to some storytelling about how Lemieux came to be the Penguins' - and the NHL's - No. 1 draft pick in 1984.
The story seems to grow with every passing year.
A lot of teams tried to pry the pick away from the Penguins, and with good reason. The Penguins had a long history of foolishly dealing away top draft picks for over-the-hill veterans.
Eddie Johnston was new to the general manager's job in 1984, and he wasn't about to surrender his pick.
The two offers that are most often cited are Quebec's willingness to trade all three Stastny brothers, and Minnesota's offer of all 12 of its draft picks.
Take a deeper look, though, and it's apparent that neither of those was quite what it seemed.
The Nordiques had the three Stastny brothers, who had defected to play in North America. Peter Stastny was then 28 and a genuine star. He would wind up in the Hall of Fame. Anton Stastny was 26 and a formidable player, too, although a bit behind the level of his brother Peter.
The third brother, Marian Stastny, had the least significant NHL career. He was 31 in 1984 and would wind up playing overseas in a couple of years.
So, in other words, the Nordiques were offering two legitimate NHL players for the overall No. 1 pick.
That's a reasonable offer, but it's far from overwhelming.
Minnesota's offer was even less impressive. The Penguins would have dropped from first to 13th in the draft order, and kept that position throughout the process.
The value of draft picks diminishes greatly after the third round. By the final rounds, teams are basically throwing darts at names on the board.
Offering his entire draft was great PR by Minnesota GM Lou Nanne, but it wasn't really that great an offer.
There were some hard heads who had doubt about Lemieux's work ethic. There was even a guy in the Penguins' front office who expressed doubts.
But it was generally acknowledged that Lemieux was a franchise-caliber player around whom a team could be built.
Even more important, he was a drawing card. At the time, the Penguins did not often fill the old Civic Arena.
There was considerable publicity about Lemieux in Pittsburgh even before the Penguins selected him. Fans were anxious to see him play for the Penguins.
Rejecting those offers wasn't nearly as difficult as it's sometimes portrayed all these years later.