Crosby on cover of this week's Sports Illustrated

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PITTSBURGH —

Pittsburgh Penguins' star Sidney Crosby is on the cover of this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, his fifth appearance on the cover.

Crosby continues to amaze by coming back from injury better than when he left, writes Michael Rosenberg in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.

Since returning from a 13-game absence with a broken jaw, Crosby has scored two goals and assisted on three more, including the game-winner in Sunday's come-from-behind overtime win over the Islanders.

Despite missing 25 percent of the lockout-shortened season, Crosby still finished third in the NHL with 56 points.

Rosenberg wrote that Crosby, still just 25 years old, uses his time off from injury to study the strengths and weaknesses of himself, his teammates and the rest of the league.

"If this is how you succeed at work, we should all call in sick," said Rosenberg.

After missing 11 months with a concussion in 2011 and another nine months in 2012 due to the NHL lockout, Rosenberg wrote that Crosby returned each time with an increased level of passion and improved stats (his points per game average has risen after each break).

"I've always loved hockey, but I realized how much I really do love it," said Crosby about his time away from the game.

Crosby's work ethic while off the ice has turned him into the best all-around player in the NHL, according to Rosenberg. His teammates agree.

"How complete he is, that is what separates him," said teammate Matt Niskanen. "That and his drive. Lots of guys work hard, but he works harder. Lots of guys can skate fast, and lots of guys can stickhandle really well. He can do both at the same time and at a very high level."

However, to many hockey fans—especially American ones -- Crosby is unworthy of his seat atop the NHL best player throne once occupied by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Crosby hears the boos and worse in every road arena.

Rosenberg concluded that, "Crosby is playing at such a high level now that his game should have the same effect on critics that LeBron James's peaking game did the last two years, forcing them to applaud against their will."

The magazine hits newsstands on Wednesday.