PittsburghPenguins.com takes a look at some of the key storylines to keep an eye on during training camp and the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Probably the greatest reason for optimism for the Penguins faithful heading into the upcoming season is having a healthy and hungry Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins captain has been through a lot – mentally and physically – over the past two calendar years while dealing with concussion-related issues. Crosby is completely fresh and eager for the puck to drop to start the season.
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Crosby, who signed a 12-year contract extension in June that runs through the 2024-25 season, had to overcome concussion and neck injuries that have limited him to just 22 games (and six postseason games) since Jan. 6, 2011. And he's as ready as he possibly can be to handle the workload of the year.
"I think it’s something I’ve been working as hard as I can to prepare for," he said. "You can’t really prepare for games until you play them, but I’ve done my best to try and prepare accordingly and hopefully things will work out well."
Crosby, 25, suffered the injuries in early January, 2011 and his condition forced him to miss the remaining 41 games of the 2010-11 season, one that had been shaping up as his best professional season with 32 goals and 66 points, as well as a 25-game scoring streak.
Crosby worked over the summer to return to the ice, but he wasn’t ready by the start of the 2011-12 regular season. He finally made it back on the ice Nov. 21 against the NY Islanders, scoring two goals and four points.
Crosby was sidelined again in early December as concussion-like symptoms returned. Despite the frustrating setback, a determined Crosby continued his rehab routine and was able to come back for good March 15 at NY Rangers.
Crosby proved to still be, even after all the time he missed with injury, one of the best players in the world. In the final 14 games of the season, he notched six goals and 25 points.
With the summer and work stoppage, Crosby has had eight full months to recover and achieve peak physical form. He's in the best shape of his career entering training camp, however there is a major gap between practice shape and game shape.
"With game shape, you’re never going to get that until you play games, so it’ll be interesting to play that first game and see how it feels," he said. "We’re all going to work hard and try to make sure we get as close as we can to game shape. It’ll probably be a little bit challenging the first few games to get that conditioning, but once you get a few games under your belt it comes back quick."
And once he gets back to his standard game conditioning, fans can expect a determined and motivated Crosby to set about reclaiming his title as the best player in the world.