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Wearing protective gear, Crosby resumes skating for Penguins

| Monday, April 15, 2013, 9:54 a.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Injured Penguins defenseman Paul Martin skates as forwards Sidney Crosby and James Neal watch in the background on Monday, April 15, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin watches as forwards James Neal and Sidney Crosby return to the ice before practice on Monday, April 15, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins winger James Neal skates for the first time on Monday, April 15, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins center Sidney Crosby returned to the ice Monday, April 15, 2013, wearing a plastic shield covering his lower face to protect him from further damage to his injured jaw.

Sidney Crosby looked like a Steelers linebacker on Monday morning.

A plastic shield, attached to his black Penguins helmet, covered his eyes and nose. His mouth area – including a surgically repaired jaw – was protected by bars.

Those bars were plastic and clear, not iron and painted as are ones attached to a football helmet.

The more important look, though, was that of Crosby's seeming comfort during a 37-minute individual workout that marked his first time skating since his jaw was broken March 30.

Crosby, who was not available for comment per Penguins policy on injured players, did not hesitate while taking passes from fellow injured skaters James Neal and Paul Martin, and his shots on open goal cages did not appear to lack accuracy or velocity.

Neal (concussion) skated for the first time since he was injured April 5. His aim was mostly true while taking one-time shots from the left and right circles, and he did not show signs of disorientation as he fielded passes while shifting laterally behind the net.

Neal was on the ice for 32 minutes.

Martin (broken thumb) was the only injured skater not in full gear. He wore a track suit, but skated hard throughout his session, which lasted 37 minutes. He did not fumble the puck while stick-handling, and he moved it without signs of distress.

Martin was injured March 28, and like Crosby his injury required surgery. Also like Crosby, Martin did not need to have a wire inserted for support.

Neither Martin nor Neal were available for comment, and coach Dan Bylsma declined to provide a timetable for the return of the three injured players – though Martin's recovery prognosis was between four and six weeks.

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin in two weeks.

The Penguins, who have clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, are cautiously optimistic Crosby, Neal and Martin will be available for the start or at some point during their opening-round series.

Crosby was the NHL scoring leader when injured. Neal was second among Penguins in goals and Martin was second among team defensemen in points.

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