Despite rampant speculation earlier this week that Sidney Crosby would make his return to the ice tonight in Montreal against the Canadiens, it looks like fans will have to wait until AT LEAST Saturday when the Penguins host the Ottawa Senators in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby has been out of the lineup since January 18th when he left the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a high ankle sprain that was projected to keep him out 6-8 weeks. To date, he has missed 14-games in which the Penguins have posted a remarkable 8-4-2 record. The Penguins have thrived in Crosby’s absence on the play of goaltender Ty Conklin and forward Evgeni Malkin.
Speculation of his imminent return has been fueled by comments made during Sunday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres and promising news reports and video clips of Crosby participating in full team practices on FSN Pittsburgh during Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers. On Sunday, a Buffalo announcer declared that he had spoken to Crosby during the 2nd intermission and that he said he might return on Tuesday against the Panthers. Pittsburgh announcer Bob Errey added fuel to the fire when interviewed on the same Buffalo broadcast and made the comment that Crosby was traveling and skating with the team and would be back “inside of a week”. During the Penguins/Panthers coverage on Tuesday night, FSN Pittsburgh showed video of Crosby participating in Monday’s full team practice. The video showed Crosby skating hard, making tight turns and fast stops with no apparent ill effects. It certainly added credibility to the feeling that Sid would soon be in the lineup, although, the official Penguins website continued to maintain that his return would be within the original 6-8 week projection.
On Wednesday, however, it was reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that Crosby did not participate in practice with the team, and that it could delay his return to the lineup. This morning, the Trib followed up by reporting that Crosby was given the day off from practice by the coaching and training staffs, and that he won’t be traveling with the team to Montreal tonight. It also went on to say that it is not an indication of a setback, and that his recovery time remains within the 6-to-8-week range initially projected by the team. That forecast has been consistent from the outset, despite the fact that Crosby is practicing much earlier than expected. On Monday, Crosby noted that he’s comfortable on the ice because he’s been out there practicing for awhile, “but other than that there hasn’t been a huge improvement at this point. It’s just going to take time.” He went on to state, “I have expectations of trying to improve every day and hoping it does improve every day, but that’s not always the case, especially with this. Some days are worse than others.”
The Penguins staff did the right thing by giving Crosby a day off. They need to make sure he takes the time to heal appropriately. Only Sidney Crosby truly knows about the progress of his recovery, but one would expect him to be chomping at the bit to get back into the game. The training and medical staff needs to make sure he doesn’t get too anxious. Given how well the team has played in his absence, it would be foolish for him to come back early and risk a re-injury that could jeapordize the remainder of his season and possibly his availability for the playoffs.
I don’t expect Sidney Crosby to return to the lineup before the 1 March trip to Ottawa. Given that he is not making the trip to Montreal, I would be surprised to see him in this Saturday’s game against Ottawa, or Sunday’s game against the Sharks. I suspect that he will join the team for next week’s road trip to New York (Islanders), Boston, and Ottawa, but will likely not play until at least the end of the road trip against Ottawa on the 1st. Regardless, it is good to see him practicing and it is nice to know that the team has stepped up and produced points in his absence. I can’t think of a better circumstance than having a healthy and hungry Sidney Crosby return to the lineup just in time for the final playoff push.