Sidney Crosby One Step Closer to a Return

The Pittsburgh Penguins forward was cleared for contact in practice this week.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

Sidney Crosby has not laced up in a game for the Pittsburgh Penguins since suffering his concussion on New Year’s Day, but on Thursday he became one step closer to a return to NHL action.  The 24-year-old superstar was cleared for full contact in practice, though he has not yet been given the official go-ahead to participate in a game.

The Penguins have had a huge hole in their lineup since Crosby suffered a brutal hit to the head by Washington Capitals forward David Steckel at the Winter Classic, which took place in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field on January 1.  Crosby really hasn’t done a whole lot in his career, well besides bringing the city its first Stanley Cup since 1992, winning the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 2007 and winning a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  Like we said, nothing too important.

On Thursday, Crosby wore a standard black helmet in practice – instead of the white one he has donned for the past few weeks – a symbol that teammates can now hit him.  But he admitted that his teammates may be reluctant to lay a hard hit on the Penguins’ captain in practice.

"Usually you're a little hesitant, that's normal … I might have to do something to get them to hit me, maybe," Crosby told Fox Sports. "Maybe have to bump them a little bit and get them going. (Make it as) close to a game situation as we can get it."

The team has not made it clear when he will return and will not put a timetable on when he might be ready to play.  The problem for the Penguins is there will be little time for full-contact practice the next few weeks as Pittsburgh’s schedule is packed with contests.  There shouldn’t be any rush to get the league’s best player back on the ice, due to the fact that the Penguins are off to their best start since the 1994-95 season, going 3-0-1 in their first four games.

With the biggest hurdle of Crosby’s return now out of the way, it would appear he will be wrecking havoc on opposing defenses in no time.  The real question is, who will be the first player to lay the big hit on him and how will Crosby and his teammates react?

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.