Yesterday, Sidney Crosby took the ice with his teammates the same way he had for the past two months. But something was different this time yet paradoxically the same: his helmet.
Crosby came out sporting a black helmet, the same helmet color his teammates were wearing. It was later confirmed Crosby was cleared for contact, the final step towards getting back to playing in the NHL for the first time since January 5th. When the season started, Crosby practiced with his teammates but wore the white "don't hit me" helmet. This morning he was fair game, receiving shoves from his teammates, albeit light shoves since it was a game day skate.
"This is a good step in the right direction and we'll see how it goes in the next little bit"-Sidney Crosby
And just like the NHL is one step closer to getting their top player and number one marketing tool back from an overdue absence. Better yet, the Pittsburgh Penguins are one step closer to getting their best player. With the right players executing the right system, the Penguins are already one of the top teams in the league. As sat out Crosby last night, the Penguins still managed to rack up 41 shots versus 19 allowed against the Washington Capitals and seemed to dominate most of the play. In the end, the Penguins fell in overtime but all signs point to a team that is one player away from putting them over the top. Rather than going out and filling that need with a trade, the Penguins will get the best acquisition a team could ask for, Sidney Crosby.
And if you thought he was determined before the concussion, just wait til he comes back.
Crosby was on pace for 60+ goals and 130+ points halfway through last season until he received crushing hits from David Steckel on January 1st and Victor Hedman on January 5th. Although the concussion he sustained was diagnosed as "mild", Crosby missed the rest of the 2010-2011 season suffering multiple setbacks on his road to recovery. While his neurological doctors hypothesized a return around Christmas in a news conference on September 7th, all signs point to a much sooner date for Crosby.
Since the Penguins are starting their season with a significant amount of games on the schedule, contact practices will be limited. Some believe he will return on November 11th against the Dallas Stars since the Penguins will have the previous six days without a game. While it seems like a reasonable prediction, nothing is certain. He still needs to get through contact practices without setbacks for several weeks before he can be cleared to play. However, if there's anything Penguins fans can take from this news it's that Crosby's return is no longer a question of if, but when.