Can't wait for tonight's game!!!
Before I had heard this news, I had already set my DVR to record tonight's game on ROOT Sports (in case my kids' piano practice runs long), but now I hear that Versus has made a change to televise Crosby's return (now I'm not sure if that will pre-empt the ROOT telecast or if the game will be shown on both networks. I may have to record both just in case.
Really excited for these line pairings:
Also, a power play unit that has Steve Sullivan bringing up the puck, Kris Letang joining him on the blueline, with Crosby, Malkin, and Neal makes my mouth water.
Let's Go Pens!!!
Penguins' Sidney Crosby back Monday
Updated: November 21, 2011, 8:42 AM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Sid the Kid is back.
Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby will make his season debut on Monday against the New York Islanders, his first game in nearly a year since being sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.
Crosby hasn't played since taking head shots in consecutive games in January against Washington and Tampa Bay.
The 2007 NHL MVP spent the last 10 months undergoing a painstakingly thorough rehabilitation that left him wondering when -- or even if -- he'd play again and forced the league to take a harsher stance when it comes to policing head hits.
His return ends weeks of speculation that appeared to put the ever-polite Crosby on edge but hardly bothered his teammates. The 24-year-old declined repeated interview requests in recent weeks as the speculation about a possible return date reached a fever pitch.
The announcement made an immediate splash. Versus quickly said it would televise the Islanders-Penguins game instead of its previously scheduled broadcast of Boston's trip to Montreal.
Crosby missed the remainder of the 2010-11 season after taking a hit from Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman on Jan. 5. The expected brief absence turned into an extended one that rendered him a spectator for Pittsburgh's loss to the Lightning in the opening round of the playoffs.
He vowed to be ready for training camp but spent much of the summer in seclusion in his native Canada, his silence fueling speculation his career may be in jeopardy.
Crosby came forward in September and -- flanked by the two doctors who have overseen his recovery -- said it was "likely" he would be back this season.
He began training camp wearing a white helmet to signify he wasn't to be hit, working feverishly for a month before switching to a black helmet after being cleared for contact on Oct. 13.
Coach Dan Bylsma preached caution, though his teammates did their best to accommodate their captain, jostling with him in practice when given the opportunity.
Crosby has traveled with the team throughout the season. He's missed one skate since camp began in September, skipping a practice in Los Angeles on Nov. 5 so he could travel back east to visit with his medical advisers.
His teammates stressed there was no need for Crosby to rush, and the Penguins have been one of the league's top teams through the season's first six weeks behind the crisp goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury and a dynamic offense led by Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
Despite a miserable road trip to Florida ended with losses to Tampa Bay and the Panthers, Pittsburgh enters Monday with an 11-6-3 record and is tied for the Atlantic Division lead with 25 points.
Crosby was cleared on Sunday after meeting with his medical team, and Bylsma could feel Crosby's excitement when he was finally given the OK.
"He's excited and anxious," Bylsma said.
So are the Penguins, who have been good without Crosby. His job is to make them great.
Bylsma said Sunday he will pair Crosby with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. How many shifts Crosby will see is unclear, though Byslma said it's highly unlikely he'd throw Crosby out there for 20-plus minutes.
Not that it matters. Not this week anyway. His return will start with a three-game homestand that will generate the kind of buzz normally reserved for late spring.
"We know what he means to this team, this city," defenseman Kris Letang said. "He's a special player."
One that spent months dealing with "fogginess" that at times made it difficult for him to drive or watch television. He also endured painful migraines and likened the recovery process to a roller coaster.
The ride appears to be finally pulling into the station, sending Crosby out into the great unknown.
For all the steps he's taken during his recovery, the real test will come when he gets hit for the first time at full speed. Though the nature of the game may be changing thanks in part to Crosby's ordeal.
New discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, only three years removed from his playing days, has been suspending players for taking unnecessary head shots at opponents. It's a movement Crosby embraces.
"A guy's got to be responsible with his stick, why shouldn't he be responsible with the rest of his body when he's going to hit someone?" Crosby said. "Whether it's accidental or not accidental, you've got to be responsible out there."
He hasn't backed down during practice, often being one of the last to leave the ice before heading to the dressing room.
The Penguins have raved about Crosby's intensity during even the more informal skates. While he's looked perfectly fine to the naked eye, Crosby wouldn't allow himself to come back until he was at full strength.
"Maybe I can get by with 90 percent, maybe I couldn't but I'm not going to roll the dice with that," Crosby said in September.
When he finally glides onto the ice in his No. 87 jersey, Crosby will put to rest speculation his career was over. His teammates, who did their best to give Crosby distance over the summer, never doubted he would return.
"I figured he was getting enough of it from everywhere else," teammate Jordan Staal said. "All that matters to us really is that he's healthy. All that stuff you thought you heard, I didn't pay any attention to it."
How quickly it takes Crosby to get back to his pre-injury level is uncertain.
He was playing arguably the best hockey of his brilliant career before getting hurt, leading the league in goals and points as the Penguins steamrolled through the first three months of the season.
The team soldiered to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference despite missing Crosby, Malkin and Staal. The magic disappeared in the playoffs as the Penguins lost in seven games.
Crosby's comeback pushes a team considered a Stanley Cup contender into a Stanley Cup favorite. But after months and months of rumors and worry, Crosby's return is cause enough for celebration.
"We know how badly he wants to play," teammate Matt Cooke said. "We want it too, because it means that he's healthy, and that's all you ever really want for him."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
The emotional return of Sidney Crosby
November, 20, 2011
By Scott Burnside
PITTSBURGH -- So now we know the answer to the question “when,” but as the hours tick down to the return of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, we are left with a much more imposing question: “What now?”
Despite Sidney Crosby's return, there are still far more questions than answers.
His absence, the result of being clipped by Washington’s David Steckel late in the second period of the Winter Classic last Jan. 1 and then by being rammed by Tampa’s Victor Hedman a few days later, has focused even greater attention on the NHL’s ongoing issues with how to deal with concussions and blows to the head.
Crosby has been vocal, if not strident, in his calls for a complete ban on head shots, something the league is not yet ready to embrace.
But as Crosby’s absence turned from weeks to months, and he missed his first playoff games as a Penguin and then failed to return for the start of the regular season, the questions about when Crosby was going to return morphed, at least in some quarters, into “will he ever return?”
Crosby insisted before the start of training camp that he never thought about retiring or that he’d never play again, but the waiting game created a cottage industry in rumor and innuendo that simply drove the tension meter up as this season began.
There were some that suggested the story was being over-reported.
As if the story of the health of the game’s best player and arguably the game’s biggest single asset could ever be over-told.
All of that is moot, now, of course.
Instead the hockey world will watch Monday evening to see what all of this time away from the game has meant to a player who was en route to what would have been a career season when he was felled by the concussion, registering 66 points in 41 games, running away with the NHL scoring race.
“I’m excited for Sid. It’s been a long journey for him,” GM Ray Shero told ESPN.com on Sunday night.
“He’s ready to go.”
Monday will begin a journey of a different sort for Crosby.
At an early September news conference at Consol Energy Center, doctors insisted they would not clear Crosby to play unless he was 100 percent healthy, but likewise insisted that when he was ready to play, there would be no reason he could not become the player he was -- or better.
But the seriousness and uncertainty that surrounds players’ ability to rebound from concussions makes that prognosis at best an educated guess -- at worst wishful thinking.
Shero’s teenage son suffered from similar symptoms after being concussed and missed six months of activity. As a parent, Shero worried not just about another blow to the head and a recurrence of the injury when his son returned to action, but for his confidence getting back into a place where he was enjoying the game.
It’s hard to imagine, having watched an energized Crosby step onto the ice during the first day of training camp and then take on full contact in recent practices, that he will suffer from a lack of confidence. Nerves?
Of course, Shero said. But loads of excitement and not just from the captain but from his teammates.
Head coach Dan Bylsma said in a Sunday conference call that one of the challenges for the rest of the Pens will be to not become bystanders given the emotion that will invariably course through sold-out Consol Energy Center.
Crosby’s return comes after the Penguins were swept in a mini, two-game trip to Florida. But they have forged an identity as a resourceful, resilient team in the absence of Crosby and other top-end talent like Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek through the last half of last season and the first quarter of this season.
As of Sunday night, the Pens’ 25 points were tied with Atlantic Division foe Philadelphia for the most in the Eastern Conference.
With Crosby’s return, it will represent just the third time in the past 110 games that all three of the Penguins’ top three centers -- Crosby, Malkin and Staal -- will be in the lineup at the same time.
“It’ll be good to get those three guys back together again,” Shero said.
With all three healthy, the Penguins look like a team that could take a trip to another Stanley Cup, as they did in 2008 and 2009, falling in the final to Detroit in ’08 and then beating Detroit in ’09 in a classic seven-game series.
But late May and early June is a long way away, especially with Crosby yet to take his first shift.
We were on hand back in December 2000, when current owner Mario Lemieux returned from retirement brought on by back injuries and Hodgkin’s disease. Magic? Oh you bet. Lemieux racked up 76 points in 43 games.
He lit up Toronto virtually from the moment he stepped on the ice in one of the most lasting emotional athletic moments we have witnessed.
We also happened to be in Denver almost a year ago when Marc Savard, the victim of a vicious blindside hit from Crosby’s teammate Matt Cooke, was trying to regain his standing as one of the most skilled players in the league. Ridden hard into the boards by Matt Hunwick, Savard has not played since, and it’s widely believed his career is over.
And so though the anticipation will be at a fever pitch, there is more than a little apprehension at how Crosby will react to NHL-game punishment being doled out for the first time in 10 months.
“I think it’s natural to wonder how the physical end of the game will go,” Shero said. “Once the game starts he’ll be fine I think.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But he has to start somewhere.”
He has to start somewhere. And somewhere is Pittsburgh on Monday night.
What can we expect from Sidney Crosby?
November, 20, 2011
By Craig Custance
Sidney Crosby will surely be excited to be back on ice Monday night against the Islanders.
When Sidney Crosby returns to the ice against the Islanders on Monday night, his first action since a concussion knocked him out of action at midseason, he will face an adjustment period.
It's unreasonable to expect the player who left the NHL as the best in the world to return in that stratosphere. So what are reasonable expectations for Crosby when he returns?
"I've never really thought about it, to be honest, what level of play he'll be back at," Penguins GM Ray Shero said.
Shero might be the only one. The Penguins are simply thrilled that their captain is back in action, while the rest of us are curious to see exactly how long it will take Crosby to return to the player who captured our imagination while rattling off point streaks and scored goals at a pace that even the great Steven Stamkos struggled to maintain.
There aren't many players in the NHL who can relate to what Crosby will go through when he takes that first shift Monday night after months of inaction. Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard is one of the few.
We chatted this past summer about what his first game was like after sitting out more than a year while recovering from post-concussion syndrome, and he articulated exactly what Crosby can expect on Monday night.
"It just felt like my first NHL game all over again," he said. "I'd been out for a long time; I was really excited. I was nervous at the same time, being out that long. ... Physically I knew I was ready, but I was excited and nervous."
Everybody's recovery comes at a different pace, and Bouchard said it took him a good 50 games until he felt like himself on the ice.
"You need your timing back; you need to be confident out there," Bouchard said. "When you're confident, you know what's going to happen on the ice."
Shero said he'd leave it up to coach Dan Bylsma as to what kind of linemates, situations and minutes Crosby will experience in his first game back. There's a case to be made for easing him back into the lineup to allow him to find his legs and slowly catch up to the speed of an NHL season that's already one-quarter finished.
There's an equally compelling case to let Crosby be Crosby, and let his fiercely competitive nature make up for any gap in timing between those he's playing against.
"His greatest asset is his compete [level]," said Mark Howe, Detroit's director of pro scouting. "His compete level is just phenomenal. Every game I go to, I laugh [because] some people don't like how he's whining or crying a little bit. There's a guy who wore No. 99 who kind of did that a little, too.
"The mark of a great player is you make the people around you better. Whoever plays on a line with Sidney Crosby is a much better player. He's going to be fine."
Joe Nieuwendyk, who watched his former franchise center, Brad Richards, return from a concussion last season, agreed.
"Does anybody expect a drop-off in Sid? I certainly don't. He's been preparing himself and making sure he is 110 percent ready before he comes back," Nieuwendyk said. "He's going to come back and compete at a high level."
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been remarkably resilient during Crosby's absence, which has helped him avoid any temptation to rush back from the concussion. Nevertheless, his timing is good.
Pittsburgh's loss to Florida on Saturday was the Penguins' third in four games, and they're just 5-4-1 in their past 10. There will no doubt be an electric atmosphere in Pittsburgh on Monday night, and there's a nice three-game game homestand in which to turn things around under Crosby.
The shorter his adjustment period, the better chance the Penguins regain their stride and their lead in the Atlantic, which has been seized by the rival Philadelphia Flyers.
"It might be a little tough at the start," said longtime coach Pat Quinn, now an adviser with the Oilers. "Just natural hesitation until he gets comfortable and confident making the moves. He plays at such a high level, he'll demand lots of himself right away. There might be frustration time to go along with it as well. You just don't kick rust off right away."
No, you don't. It's unrealistic to expect the Sidney Crosby who scored 66 points in 41 games before his injury to immediately appear on Monday. That he's appearing at all is the good news.
"Regardless of where he's going to play or what level, as a fan of the game, I just really can't wait to see him back on the ice," Shero said.