As they move closer toward what will likely be a winnable first-round playoff series, the team is about to receive the biggest boost possible — at least in practice.
Captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared by doctors to return to practice with the team, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He will travel with the team on its road trip to Florida, where the Penguins will play the Lightning on Thursday and the Panthers on Saturday.
“The Penguins remain cautiously optimistic Crosby will play in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” according to the report.
Crosby, 23, has not played since Jan. 5, as he’s been suffering from the effects of a concussion believed to have been sustained during the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. Crosby didn’t leave that game and played four nights later, coincidentally, against Tampa Bay, when his head was hit into the boards and he left the game.
In 41 games, or exactly one-half of a season, Crosby scored at an unbelievable rate this year. His 32 goals and 34 assists had him on pace for a career high in goals. Despite his nearly three-month absence, he still ranks ninth in the NHL in goals and his 1.61 points per game have him atop the league leaderboard, far ahead of No. 2 Daniel Sedin (1.27 points per game).
It’s not yet clear when or if Crosby will return to game action, but participating in full-contact practices is the first necessary step toward reaching that goal.