When Penguins captain Sidney Crosby took the ice for the team’s Sunday afternoon practice at CONSOL Energy Center something was missing.
Crosby, 25, hit the ice without the extra jaw protector that has been attached to his helmet since he returned from a broken jaw injury May 3. Crosby has been cleared to play without the jaw protector and will not wear it when the Penguins play the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals.
“They’re comfortable with it coming off, being hit and things like that,” Crosby said of the team’s doctors. “That’s what it came down to.
“It doesn’t really change anything. It’s nice to see a little bit better.”
"It’s something he’s been cleared to be able to do," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "He didn’t shake his head at the doctor and say, ‘I’m taking it off.’ So he’s obviously progressed and his time period away from the injury has allowed him to even think about doing that."
Crosby suffered a broken jaw March 30 after being struck in the face by a puck on a deflected shot. He missed the last 12 games of the regular season and the first game of the postseason.
Crosby returned with a special protective attachment to his helmet to shield his jaw. He wore the piece in all 10 playoff games this year.
The full-face shield didn’t affect his play, as he finished third on the team in scoring with 15 points (7G-8A), including his second career playoff hat trick in Game 2 vs. Ottawa. But now that the protector is gone, it will take some time for Crosby to get used to its absence.
“It feels weird cause I’m used to wearing the full-face (shield) for a month,” Crosby said. “It feels weird, but much better. Seeing is much better.
“It might take a few days. I won’t be sticking my head in front of the net as much as I would with a full-face on. But a few practices and I should be back to normal.”
There is one downside to losing the face shield.
"I kind of like seeing the pictures of him with it," Bylsma said. "Gives a little playoff-type of pictures with that there. But it does show off his beard a little more."