The captain has joined team practice.
On Saturday, Sidney Crosby skated with his teammates for the first time since undergoing a successful wrist procedure on Sep. 8, which means he is one step closer to being healthy and ready to play.
"It was great to see him back," Jeff Carter said. "It's exciting for us to be out there skating with him, having him back in the group. He's been around, but nobody's been on the ice with him yet. So it's a good step for him, and it's a good sign for our team that he's integrating into some practices and whatnot."
Crosby wore a normal black jersey and was a full participant in the morning skate ahead of Pittsburgh's final preseason game tonight in Columbus, rotating in on defense alongside Mike Matheson during line rushes. When the Penguins started working on special teams, Crosby and Matheson - who is dealing with a nagging lower body injury that the team doesn't believe to be serious - did drills of their own in the neutral zone.
"I think our team had a certain jump in its step," head coach Mike Sullivan said with a smile. "He just has that influence on the group, and everybody's excited that he's getting closer. We're obviously thrilled that he's back with our team."
Crosby was given a recovery timeline of a minimum of six weeks, which would take him to Oct. 20, just four games into the season. Sullivan said that Crosby - who had been skating on his own with skills and development coach Ty Hennes up to this point - is on schedule.
"He's in terrific shape," Sullivan said. "He's been working real hard with Ty Hennes behind the scenes with what he can do, and he's making real encouraging progress."
The Penguins start the 2021-22 campaign with a two-game road trip to Tampa Bay (Oct. 12) and Florida (Oct. 14). Sullivan said he anticipates that Crosby will travel with them so that he can be part of the team practices.
"But I'm still working with our medical staff, and they're advising us daily on to proceed," Sullivan said. "But I would anticipate he would join us and just get more involved with the team practices here as we go."
Forward Zach Aston-Reese practiced with the team for the first time since confirming positive for COVID-19 on Sep. 27.
"From Zach's standpoint, Zach has been cleared medically with respect to the COVID stuff," Sullivan said. "Now it's just a matter of getting him reacclimated to the practice environment, being around the group. Today was his first time with the team. Yesterday was the first time he was on the ice."
Sullivan said that he spoke with Aston-Reese after practice, who told him that he was feeling much better than he did after skating on his own yesterday.
"That's real encouraging," Sullivan said. "But we'll monitor him every day and we'll continue to progress him to a return to play point. But a lot of it is going to do with how Zach responds to the workload that we give him, then we'll trust and rely on our doctors and medical staff to consult us in that capacity."
Because Aston-Reese was symptomatic, he is following a different protocol than Jake Guentzel, who also confirmed positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 3 but is asymptomatic.
"He continues to be asymptomatic," Sullivan said. "So that's real positive from our standpoint. But he's still in the protocols. There's no change there."