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Sidney Crosby cleared for comeback from concussion

| Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011

Call it a comeback.

Actually, call it The Comeback.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby will play Monday night against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center, the team announced today.

In a statement it was said that Crosby would speak Monday morning after a practice.

He has not played since Jan. 5 because of a concussion.

"There's going to be a (period of) time before he feels comfortable and back, certainly, to the level he was playing (before the injury)," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who added Crosby will play on a line with wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.

"The one thing I think is easy to see in practice is he's one of the best players on the ice. He's the best player on the ice, and you can see that with his speed and skating. He's going to bring that to the game tomorrow."

Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion Jan. 6 after he absorbed two blindside hits over a period of five days. He was clipped by then-Washington forward David Steckel at the Winter Classic on New Year's Eve and driven from behind into the boards by Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman on Jan. 5.

Neither hit drew a fine or suspension from the NHL, though certainly the cumulative impact of each was far reaching because it cost the league its top draw and most marketed star while also bringing a sharp focus on its head-safety policies.

Crosby was the NHL's leader in goals and points, with 32 and 66 respectively, at the time of his diagnosis. His concussion occurred at the point in his career when he looked to be separating himself from his peers. In addition to being on pace for career-best goal and point totals at the time of his diagnosis, Crosby also had just wrapped a 25-game point streak — the longest stretch since the NHL returned from its lockout season of 2004-05.

"The most amazing thing about him was that he never seemed to be pressing; he was just so consistent, there was never a game when you thought, 'He's having an off night,'" Kunitz said of Crosby's level of play at the time of his concussion.

"He was completely in control of everything on the ice. It was something to see."

Crosby's legion of fans in Pittsburgh and his native Canada have been looking for something to see since — hanging on factual reports and every social-media driven rumor about his progress.

At no point before Oct. 13 was he ever cleared for contact participation in practices.

His return appeared close last April, but a reoccurrence of concussion symptoms — headache, nausea and disorientation — led to a "step back" in his recovery, said general manager Ray Shero in June.

Crosby was cleared for normal offseason workouts in June. However, by August he had altered those workouts because of recurring symptoms at 90-percent exertion, said his agent, Pat Brisson, in a statement on the Penguins web site in August.

Crosby sought a second opinion with Ted Carrick, a Canadian-born Georgia-based chiropractor who said he specializes in neurological treatments. Brisson has credited Carrick with playing a significant role in Crosby's recovery since a weeklong series of treatments in August.

Before joining up with Carrick, to whom he was not referred by anybody within the Penguins, Crosby had been treated primarily by Michael Collins, a clinical psychologist with extensive neurological training who heads the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Collins has served as head of Crosby's concussion team, though Penguins team physician Dr. Charles Burke, an orthopedic surgeon, clears all players for return to play.

On Nov. 4 Crosby cut short his stay with the Penguins on a West Coast trip to meet with members of his concussion team, but it is not clear if he visited with Carrick in addition to seeing Collins and/or Burke.

Ten months after his concussion diagnosis even Crosby's teammates were not sure when their team captain would rejoin the lineup.

"There's been a long wait for Sid's arrival," center Jordan Staal said Nov. 9. "He's pretty much kept everyone in the dark just like he's kept you guys in the dark."

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