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Crosby Cleared to Return; Skate with Kunitz, Dupuis

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby met with doctors Michael Collins and Charles Burke Sunday and was cleared to return to game action. A few hours later, the Penguins announced that he will make his season debut Monday night against the New York Islanders, his first NHL game since suffering a concussion in early January.

“He’s been progressing over the course of the last week or so,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He saw Dr. Collins today and in conjunction with Dr. Burke, they saw and talked to him. They cleared him. That was when the decision was made that (Monday) would be the day.”

Bylsma said that Crosby will be playing with former linemates Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.

“That’s a line that he’s played a lot with and has the most experience with on our team,” Bylsma said. “We’ll start that way with Sidney. We’ll leave James Neal with Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy.”

Bylsma added that the club will be monitoring Crosby’s ice time, but didn’t have an exact minutes total he’ll play going into the game.

“I don’t know exactly what a number would be, but it’s certainly not rushing back in to 20-plus minutes where he was at before,” he said. “It will be watched and monitored. We’ll see how he’s doing and his conditioning level. When you get those guys they always want to go out for one more shift. We may have to tie him to the bench a little bit.”

The team is being cautious with their expectations. They don’t expect Crosby to step right back into the lineup after missing over 10 months of action and play at the level he was at before the injury.

“There will be some time before he totally feels comfortable and back to the level that he was playing when he went on that point streak and those games when he was at that level,” Bylsma said. “It’s easy to see in practice that he’s the best player on the ice with his speed and the way he plays the game. He’ll bring that to the game tomorrow. It’ll take some time. Sometimes Game 1 is on adrenaline and it takes a few games for players to get that timing back and speed of the game.”

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