“It’s been a long time. I’m looking forward to it,” he said following Monday’s morning skate. “It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the last 10 months. I’m pretty excited.
“I’m just trying to enjoy being back. I’ve never been away from hockey this long. I’m just excited to be able to play again.”
Crosby, who has missed the last 10-plus months of action with a concussion, will play his first NHL game since Jan. 5 when the Pens host the NY Islanders tonight at CONSOL Energy Center.
And while Crosby, who will be skating with linemates Chris Kunitz
and Pascal Dupuis
, has returned from other lengthy injuries in his career – most notably a high-ankle sprain that sidelined him for 27 games in 2007-08 – he is not sure what to expect in his return.
“I’ve been working over the last couple months, but it’s been a while since I’ve played a game,” Crosby said. “I don’t really know what to expect. I try to give myself every chance to be ready the best I possibly can given the layoff here.
“It’s still a process of getting back and used to things. It’s not going to get any easier. It’s going to be an adjustment. Having that opportunity is something I’ve waited a long time for. I’m really exited and looking forward to getting going.”
Although it will take some time, Crosby expects to eventually regain his playing level from last season when he went on a 25-game scoring streak and scored 32 goals in 41 games.
“It’s hard to compare where you are without playing a game,” he said. “I expect to be back there eventually. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I think the main thing is to get more and more comfortable each game. If I do that then I think I can get back there.”
Crosby has been cleared for contact since Oct. 13, but as the team has noted, it is impossible to simulate game contact in practices. That said, Crosby said he will not be hesitant in his return.
“Anybody that has gone through this and missed this amount of time, you’ve got to get involved early and get that first hit under your belt,” he said. “I may have to initiate a little more myself. Anybody that’s gone through this realizes there is a feeling out process to get back into. As far as my confidence level with getting hit, it’s all there. I feel confident going into those areas and getting contact.”
Crosby has done all the contact he can in practice. Now it’s time to step it up a notch.
“I’ve taken as much as I possibly can,” he said. “Now it’s time for the real thing.”