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Penguins' Crosby looks almost back to normal at practice

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (right), who’s recovering from a broken jaw, practices Thursday at Consol Energy Center. He will need medical clearance to play Friday against the Islanders in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup playoff series.

A new hope

Assessing the forward lines used for parts of Penguins practice Thursday at Consol Energy Center on Thursday:

LW Chris Kunitz, C Sidney Crosby, RW Pascal Dupuis

The NHL's top line was reunited for the first time since Crosby's injury March 30.

LW Beau Bennett, C Evgeni Malkin, RW Jarome Iginla

James Neal's absence resulted in Bennett's promotion and Iginla's switch to his natural wing.

LW Brenden Morrow, C Brand on Sutter, R W Matt Cooke

Coach Dan Bylsma opted to keep these physical wingers with their cerebral center.

LW Tanner Glass, C Jussi Jokinen, RW Craig Adams

Jokinen, dropped from a scoring line, provided the skill element the Penguins covet on the fourth unit.

— Rob Rossi

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Thursday, May 2, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

Sidney Crosby said nothing has changed.

That was not entirely true Thursday during Penguins practice at Consol Energy Center.

Crosby skated with his regular wingers, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. He also worked with the first power-play unit at his usual spot near the right half-wall.

Those were firsts for Crosby since he resumed practicing last Friday. He has not played since his jaw was broken when a puck hit his face during a game March 30.

Another first, at least since the injury: Troy Crosby watched his son practice from the stands.

“Nothing's changed,” Sidney Crosby said after a practice that, for him, did not involve contact.

Crosby said he has no scheduled meetings with doctors.

“It's kind of been a lot of communication throughout the whole process, anyway,” he said. “So that won't change.”

Crosby is known to have last met with medical personnel Tuesday, when he still wasn't cleared for contact let alone a return to play in games.

He will require medical clearance to play for the Penguins, who face the New York Islanders in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup playoff series Friday night.

The Penguins lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal, 1-0.

Occasionally burned by setting a timeline for Crosby's return during his 15-month concussion saga, the Penguins have been careful to avoid that during the jaw injury.

Crosby officially remains out indefinitely.

Coach Dan Bylsma reiterated that he will not provide injury updates or reveal lineups during the playoffs.

So, even though right winger James Neal did not practice and limped heavily favoring his right leg, he was not ruled out for Game 2.

Neal did not finish Game 1 after he was hit by Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Jarome Iginla was the right winger for center Evgeni Malkin during practice, with rookie Beau Bennett playing the left side.

Bennett had worked the right wing on a fourth line in Game 1. That spot was filled in practice by forward Craig Adams, who was replaced at center on the fourth line by Jussi Jokinen.

Crosby, though, was the center of attention.

He said repetition with his regular linemates was “nice.”

“I think Dan knows I want to get in there once in a while,” Crosby said, adding that he was not permitted to “get into medical terms” regarding his jaw.

“It's just not ready to go,” he said.

Many of his teammates acted as though his return was imminent.

Defenseman Paul Martin opined that Crosby was “ready.”

“We're excited to have him back in,” Martin said.

Dupuis described the chemistry he has developed with Kunitz and Crosby, using terminology like “trust” and “comfort level” and offering the key to the top line's success, at least when Crosby has been healthy, over the past three seasons.

“We outwork opponents,” Dupuis said.

The MVP favorite and NHL scoring leader at the time of his injury, Crosby's return would make the Islanders' challenge of upsetting the top-seeded Penguins even tougher.

“He's one of the best, if not the best, player in the league,” Islanders left winger Matt Martin said. “He makes everyone around him better and brings a whole other dynamic to that team.

“One thing about (the Penguins) is it really doesn't matter who's out of the lineup. They're so deep with talent that they have somebody to fill in those spots.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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