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Crosby to play for Penguins in Game 2

by Shawn P. Roarke

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby said Friday morning he will play in Game 2 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Friday night against the New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

"I'm cleared to play," Crosby said following the team's morning skate. "I'm excited to get back in there and play in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs."

Coach Dan Bylsma did not confirm Crosby will be in the lineup for Game 2, refusing to provide any update on injuries or lineup changes. But both the player and the team's website said he will be in the lineup.

It will be Crosby's first game since sustaining a broken jaw during a game March 30. He began skating on his own April 15 and started skating with the team April 26.

Crosby had said Tuesday that as soon as he took a full morning skate with the team, it would be the clear-cut sign he had been given full clearance by his doctors and was ready to return to the lineup.

So when Crosby took the Consol Energy Center ice Friday morning and participated in line rushes with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz -- his traditional linemates -- then took all the drills as the center on the first power-play unit, the excitement about Crosby's return started to build.

"I feel good," Crosby said. "I'm excited to get back in there."

He said he was given medical clearance Thursday after the team practiced after a surprise consultation with the doctor.

"He (the doctor) was around and I wasn't sure if he would give me the OK or even consider it," Crosby said. "I'm happy that he did and happy to be back. He's comfortable with me getting hit at this point. That's the biggest thing. He has to be comfortable putting me out there. To hear him say that allows me to be comfortable too."

Crosby has been skating with the team for several days and has increased his workload each day. Thursday, Bylsma said he liked the speed and play-reading ability Crosby was showing in practice.

But Crosby knows there will be a feeling-out period as he jumps into the playoffs without any warm-up games.

"I think it will take a bit of an adjustment period for sure, stepping into the playoffs after missing that much time," Crosby said. "That being said, this is when you want to play.

"If anything, my timing might be a little bit off, but hopefully that is something that will come together quickly."

His teammates are not overly concerned about any rust Crosby might exhibit.

"You have seen him come back before, how long did it take him?" Pascal Dupuis said. "I'm not concerned."

Crosby has a history of dramatic comebacks.

On Nov. 21, 2011, Crosby returned from a major concussion scare, also to face the Islanders, and had two goals and two assists in a 5-0 victory. On March 15, 2012 he returned from another bout with concussion symptoms and had a pair of assists in a 5-2 win against the New York Rangers.

"Someone has pointed that out before that when he has come back in the past he makes an impact immediately with how he plays," Bylsma said. "I joked that I could just hold him out until an important game. When Sid gets back on the ice, you are going to see him in similar situations and similar spots on our team. We're looking forward to getting him back into our group and back onto his line when that happens."

The Islanders, not surprisingly, are not as excited about the return of Crosby, who finished third in the NHL scoring race and is a legitimate MVP candidate for his 56-point showing in 36 games this season.

"He's obviously a special player; the skill is one thing and his speed is another thing," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "He's going to be revved up; he hasn't played in a while and it seems like we're always the team he likes to come back against. People notice how good he is with the goal scoring and things like that, but it's his work ethic. And I think as a unit defensively we need to match that if we want to have some hope of really trying to shut him down."

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