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Sidney Crosby scores in season debut

Pittsburgh captain returns against Panthers after missing six games because of concussion

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

Crosby's first goal of the season

FLA@PIT: Crosby blisters a wrist shot into the twine

Sidney Crosby gets open in front, stretches out to receive a pass and rips the puck top shelf on a power play for his first of the season

  • 00:54 •

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored in his season debut against the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.

Crosby, who missed the first six games because of a concussion, scored on the power play at 13:41 of the second period, getting a pass from Evgeni Malkin in the slot and shooting the puck over the blocker of Panthers goalie James Reimer.   

Crosby participated in the morning skate Tuesday for the first time this season after sustaining a concussion during an Oct. 7 practice. He centered a line between left wing Scott Wilson and right wing Patric Hornqvist, and he reclaimed his spot on the top power-play unit with Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Justin Schultz.

Following the skate, Crosby said he was not experiencing any symptoms. The Penguins announced 20 minutes before the game he was in the starting lineup.  

"We'll see how things go today, but yesterday was good," Crosby said. "I want to prepare to play, so we'll see what happens. … It's been a good chunks of days [since he's experienced symptoms]. Ultimately, to get to that step yesterday of having contact, you have to go a number of days being symptom-free and that's been the case."

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby would likely play, barring a setback.

"[Crosby] had a strong practice this morning," Sullivan said. "Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he's comfortable, he could play."

Crosby participated in a full-contact practice Monday for the first time since sustaining his concussion, his third in six years. It forced him to miss Pittsburgh's first six games, during which the Penguins went 3-2-1.

"He's huge," Hornqvist said. "He's the best player in the world and obviously, he does a lot of good things for our team. But tonight, we have to go out there with the right mindset. It doesn't matter who's in or who's out of the lineup. We just have to do it together and show each other how to play here."

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said Crosby poses a unique threat, but his presence can't distract them from focusing on their game.

Forward Jaromir Jagr also complimented Crosby.

"When he came in the League, when he was 18, I think he scored 100 points. Not many guys can do that in their first year," Jagr said. "He's special. A special guy."

Crosby said he has been pleased with his recent progression.

"I think, just to get on the ice with the guys yesterday, regardless of anything, I think that's a good step," Crosby said. "It's encouraging. It's fun to get out there with them. So, I think as you get closer and kind of go through that stuff, it gets you excited."

Following the Oct. 7 practice, Crosby said he planned to play in Pittsburgh's final preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets the next day after missing Pittsburgh's previous five when captaining Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. However, he informed Penguins doctors he awoke with a headache on Oct. 8, and was not in the lineup.

Crosby took part in the Penguins Fan Fest event at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 9 before missing their Oct. 10 practice when he had concussion testing. Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford later announced Crosby had a concussion.

He skated on his own Oct. 11 and again Oct. 12, and concluded the second session by walking from one rink at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex to the main rink, grabbing a different stick and joining his teammates for practice.

Crosby's participation was limited that day; he donned a yellow no-contact jersey and participated in several line rushes.

After practicing once, Crosby routinely skated alone over the following week. Sullivan explained that Crosby felt skating sessions were more beneficial than being limited during a team practice.

Sullivan listed Crosby as day-to-day each day during his recovery.

While he attempted to remain optimistic throughout, Crosby was also realistic.

"I don't think you ever know [how severe a concussion is]," he said. "It's kind of each person, or each time, it can be different. So having gone through it before, I was probably a little more understanding and patient with the whole process. That helps probably a little bit. But the fact that I was able to get out there with the team yesterday, I think that gives you a bit of a boost too."

Crosby helped the Penguins win the 2016 Stanley Cup by scoring 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 24 games during the playoffs, and he was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy. Four months later, he helped Team Canada win the World Cup and was named the tournament's most valuable player after scoring 10 points in six games.

Despite his concussion history, Crosby said he didn't panic when informed of the injury.

"They happen," Crosby said. "It's part of the game. I think there are guys who have had them before. It's been a long time since I've had to deal with that myself. It's not something you want to hear, but I think you just have to approach it the right way and kind of trust the process."

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