It’s time for the rest of the Eastern Conference and perhaps the NHL to get really worried about the Pittsburgh Penguins.
According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared to practice with the team and will travel with the Penguins on their upcoming road trip for two games in Florida.
UPDATE: Not so fast, Rossi. Pens GM Ray Shero clarifies that Crosby is cleared to skate with the team on game days and isn’t cleared for practice yet. They aren’t expecting him back during the regular season. Translation: Look out playoffs.
Crosby’s progress in recovering from a concussion of late has been more than noticeable as we’ve seen the flashes of brilliance we’ve grown accustomed to from Sid the Kid during workouts with the team. With Crosby inching ever closer to returning to the Penguins lineup and the Penguins getting healthier in general, the team could be poised to have a similar sort of playoff run that they had back in 2009 when they won the Stanley Cup from the fourth seed.
That’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but Crosby’s offensive production this season cannot be ignored. Despite missing 36 games this season, Crosby is still ninth in the league in goals scored with 32 and still in the top 20 in points scored with 66. Crosby was on pace for an easy Art Ross Trophy winning season and very likely the Hart Trophy before being sidelined by a concussion.
The Penguins biggest issue since both Crosby and Malkin went down with ailments is that their offense has been poor. Crosby’s return will alleviate that greatly and the guys that will benefit most from should be James Neal and Alex Kovalev. How soon Crosby gets back into the lineup now depends on how he handles the practices. Judging by what we’ve seen from Crosby during his recovery, we’ll probably see him back on the ice in a game by the time the playoffs start.