Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff spot, the focus shifts to two subjects: 1) the team’s playoff seeding and 2) Sidney Crosby’s return.
The Penguins are most likely to end up with the fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. But as we discussed earlier today, it’s also possible that they could close the gap and actually steal the Atlantic Division title from the Philadelphia Flyers.
A division title (and thus, a high seed) doesn’t guarantee postseason success, something that was illustrated quite vividly during the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2010. Ultimately, the Penguins’ playoff pursuit might come down to whether or not Crosby can play.
The Penguins still are weary of setting a time table for his return, but NHL.com reports that Crosby looked strong enough in this morning’s workout that he might be able to practice with the team soon.
In fact, Crosby’s showing the kind of work ethic that made him such a force to begin with.
Asked how the rehabilitating Crosby did during an early morning, 45-minute session Sunday at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said, “I was on the ice. I left before he got finished. So he tired me out.”
“Sid’s been around a lot for three weeks, four weeks, being a part of it,” Bylsma said. “He’s in every day, talking to our players. He has been with our team for a while now. Again, there’s been no expectations talked about, there’s been no timetable talked about, when it’s possible for him to even return with the team.”
Pittsburgh has six games remaining after today’s in-progress game against the Florida Panthers. Surely they would rather play Crosby in a game or two before the playoffs so he can shake off the rust, but that might not be in the cards. In fact, he might not make it back until next season, period.
It’s still unclear whether we’ll see Crosby again before the 2011-12 campaign, but he’s making it tougher for the team to keep him off the ice. That’s a great sign for Penguins fans, as long as the team does everything it can to make sure he can avoid a Marc Savard-type fate.