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Sidney Crosby's return welcomed by hockey world

Penguins/NHL Videos

By Dejan Kovacevic
Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

He's about to become Sid the Comeback Kid.

Sidney Crosby, superstar of the Penguins and face of the National Hockey League, will return Monday night in a game against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center, his first action after missing 11 months to a career-threatening concussion.

The team announced the return Sunday afternoon, shortly after Crosby received medical clearance from Michael Collins, a clinical neuropsychologist at UPMC who has headed Crosby's concussion team, and Dr. Charles Burke, the team physician.

Faceoff is at 7:08 p.m., and coach Dan Bylsma predicted unprecedented decibel levels in the Penguins' home.

"When Sid came out for season-opening introductions, he was wearing a suit and went to the bench," Bylsma said, referring to the team's Oct. 11 home opener before which Crosby was greeted with a loud standing ovation. "I think you get a fraction of an idea of what it's going to be like when he comes out of the tunnel for this game. The building's going to be crazy."

Crosby will address the media this morning after the Penguins' game-day skate.

He was diagnosed with a concussion Jan. 6, the day after taking his second blindside hit to the head in a five-day span. The first came during the Winter Classic at Heinz Field by Washington forward David Steckel on New Year's Day, the next by Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman on Jan. 5.

Neither drew a fine or suspension from the NHL, raising a discussion across the sports world about head hits and concussions. In what appeared to be a direct response, the league approved stricter guidelines for dealing with both, and Brendan Shanahan, the new disciplinary czar, has meted punishment accordingly.

Crosby, the NHL's 2007 most valuable player and a 2010 Olympic gold medalist for Canada, was leading the league in with 32 goals and 66 points at the time of his injury, and he was playing at a level that Penguins legend Mario Lemieux called better than his own at his peak. Included in that stretch was a 25-game points streak that was the league's longest since 2004-05.

"He was completely in control of everything on the ice," Crosby's linemate Chris Kunitz said. "It was something to see."

Pascal Dupuis, the other linemate, predicted — albeit carefully — a strong return.

"You know, honestly, it's Sidney Crosby. He has that history of doing big things in big moments. This is a big one for him," Dupuis said. "Ask me about it after the game, but I don't think anybody is going to be disappointed."

The Penguins have fared well in Crosby's absence — 11-6-3 this season, 34-19-8 the past two seasons — but they'll embrace having Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, their top three forwards, share the same ice surface for just the third time in the past two seasons, the first since Crosby's last game.

"Everyone just kind of succumbed to the fact that we had a three-headed monster and we'd just be without one of them all the time," forward Matt Cooke said. "That's how it felt the last 14 months because Staal didn't start last season. But it's exciting to have all three in the lineup, I'm not going to lie."

Crosby's return also will be welcomed across Canada and the hockey world. Within hours of the Penguins' announcement, the national network Versus picked up the game — it still will be aired locally on Root Sports — as did the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It will be great to have Sid back," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

"I think it's awesome for the entire league," Edmonton defenseman Ryan Whitney, formerly of the Penguins, said of Crosby's return. "He's probably the only player who doesn't play for 10 months and, if he scores a hat trick in his first game back, no one would be surprised."

"It means a great deal," Buffalo forward Derek Roy said. "He's got so many kids that look up to him, who want to be Sidney Crosby, who want to be the guy who scores the game-winner in the gold-medal game for Canada, who's won the Stanley Cup. I've had concussions, too, and it's tough to go through that. You don't wish that on your worst enemy."

It hasn't always been easy to read Crosby's reaction to these events. He told the Tribune-Review two weeks ago that the recovery was "no fun," but he also went several months over the summer without doing interviews, and he hasn't hasn't spoken publicly since Nov. 7, either. Speculation about his status, responsible and otherwise, was everywhere.

Crosby did have several real setbacks in his 11-month recovery, including headaches, nausea and dizziness, but has been symptom-free since August. He was cleared for full-contact practices in October and handled those well, too, though Bylsma pointed out, "He hasn't had any crushing blows."

Crosby has been dazzling in drills, but Bylsma cautioned that it will take Crosby "some time to get back up to that level where he was with the points streak." Crosby told Bylsma he expects to log 12 minutes of ice time tonight, about nine fewer than usual, but the coach recalled laughing at that.

"Once Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute," Bylsma said.

Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe contributed to this report.

NHL community excited for Crosby's return

Penguins center Sidney Crosby will return to NHL action tonight. League reaction on what his comeback means for hockey:

Ryan Malone, Lightning left winger:

"Good news! I'm a little worried about what he's been doing to keep his skills sharp. Just kidding; it will be great to see him back on the ice."

Rob Scuderi, Kings defenseman:

"It's great to have hockey's best player back, especially since we played our only game against the Penguins already."

Patrick Kane, Blackhawks center:

"It's huge. He's probably the face of the NHL. He's dominated the past couple of years, and it's unfortunate he's been hurt for the game. When he comes back, I think it just helps the league so much as far as having a big face around the league where the league can kind of motor off. It's something pretty special for us players to watch him to see what he does, especially myself who can learn from a player like that. It's definitely good for the league."

Matt Duchene, Avalanche center:

"He's probably the biggest star in the game and a great player, so I think it's nothing but good for the game to have him back finally. He's a guy I know and look up to, so it's terrific news that he's close to being back."

Robyn Regher, Sabres defenseman:

"He's of the very important people for the face of the NHL in the world. When he's playing and we ran into him last year in the middle of his point streak, he's an absolutely dominating player. Pittsburgh's off to a good start already. Once they get him back, they're going to be a pretty good team. It's going to be great for the league, for Pittsburgh and for the fans of hockey."

Tom Renney, Oilers coach:

"Outstanding. It's huge for our game. He's a measuring stick in so many ways. I have a young team here and to be able to identify with him and how much of a professional he is by the nature of the way he plays, of course, but how he handles being a great player and maybe the great player in the game, I think it's important to us. He helps build rinks. You've got the NBA doing their thing, and this is an opportunity to showcase the NHL through one of its best players. We need Sidney in the game badly."

P.K. Subban, Canadiens defenseman:

"First of all, whether he was injured or he wasn't injured, when you see '87' on the back or '5' on the Detroit Red Wings (Nicklas Lidstrom), there's a tremendous amount of respect for players like that on the ice. That being said, those are the greatest players in our game and you don't want to put them in a bad position and put yourself in a bad position. You play them hard, but you don't want to hit them from behind or do anything like that. That's the same for everybody, but especially with those guys, you are a little cautious. Nobody wants to be the one to put Sidney Crosby out, you know what I mean?"

Patrick Marleau, San Jose center:

"Obviously it's not the same when he's not in the lineup. I mean, it's Sidney Crosby. He's a great hockey player, and he's very important to this league. The game needs him. Playing Pittsburgh without him might make it easier on other players in the game, but it's not good for the game."

Jarome Iginla, Calgary right wing:

"I hope he's back soon. But at the same time, I want him back when he's 100 percent. He's still so young. He's got many, many great years ahead of him."


Crosby concussion timeline

The Penguins announced Sunday that center Sidney Crosby has been cleared to play in NHL games by team physician Dr. Charles Burke. He will play tonight against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center. This marks the end of a long saga that stretched over 10 months. A recap of the significant events:

Jan. 1: A blindside hit from Washington's David Steckel leaves Crosby dazed, but he finishes the Winter Classic game at Heinz Field.

Jan. 5: In the Penguins' next game he is driven from behind into the boards at Consol Energy Center by Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman. Crosby returns to play and accompanies the team on a postgame flight to Montreal.

Jan. 6: After awaking in Montreal with symptoms (headache, nausea, disorientation and neck soreness), Crosby returns to Pittsburgh and is diagnosed with a concussion by Michael Collins, a clinical psychologist with extensive neuropsychology training and head of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

March 31: Crosby resumes on-ice practices with Penguins at Tampa Bay, but is not cleared for contact participation.

April 20: He participates in a final noncontact practice before he is shut down by the Penguins midway through Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs because of headaches.

June 2: He is cleared by Collins for regular offseason workouts, but not contract.

July 15: Penguins GM Ray Shero says Crosby has resumed regular offseason workouts, but that Crosby is not cleared for contact. Shero calls Crosby's playoff shutdown a "step back, not a setback."

Aug. 14: Amid Internet buzz that Crosby has experienced a setback, Shero says Crosby has experienced a recurrence of concussion symptoms but that he has not been shut down from offseason training.

Aug. 24: The Penguins release a statement that says Crosby, with team approval, has sought alternate opinions from concussion experts in Michigan and Georgia because he has experienced headaches after conducting on-ice workouts at "90 percent exertion."

Sept. 7: Crosby updates his status at a news conference that also includes Shero, Collins and Ted Carrick, a Canadian-born, Georgia-based chiropractor who specializes in neurological treatment. Crosby says he will "likely" play this NHL season.

Sept. 16: Crosby says he is cleared for noncontact participation in training camp practices. Carrick tells WDVE-FM (102.5) that Crosby is "as ready (for physical contact) as just about any player in the league."

Oct. 13: The Penguins say Crosby is cleared by Burke for contact practices.

Nov. 4: Crosby cuts short the Penguins' West Coast trip and returns to Pittsburgh to visit with local members of his medical team. It is not known if he also was examined by Carrick.

? Nov. 7: Crosby speaks with the media for the last time regarding his concussion. He does not rule out playing Nov. 11 against Dallas at home.

Nov. 10: Coach Dan Bylsma rules out Crosby for the Nov. 11 game, says there is no change in his status and that the Penguins will provide a 24-hour notice before Crosby's return.

Sunday: The Penguins issue a news release confirming Crosby's return is scheduled for tonight against the Islanders.

Source: Tribune-Review records

Additional Information:

Crosby's comeback

Game: Penguins vs. New York Islanders

When: 7:08 tonight

Where: Consol Energy Center

TV/Radio: Root Sports/WXDX-FM (105.9), Penguins Radio Network

Tickets: Limited single seats remain



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