NHL-Crosby cleared to make comeback on Monday

Reuters

Mon, 21 Nov 02:09:00 2011

* Doctors clear Crosby to return to play

* Coach warns against high expectations

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared to make his long-awaited return to the National Hockey League on Monday.

The Penguins said on Sunday that Crosby had been selected in the lineup to face the New York Islanders, marking his first appearance since Jan. 5, after team doctors approved his return.

"They saw him today and talked to him and cleared him, and that's when the decision was made that (Monday) would be the day," Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma told reporters.

"The only thing I can really say is that is that I would liken it to the sound you hear in the voice of a player that's going to go play in their first National Hockey League game.

"He's excited. He's anxious. He's been wanting to play hockey for a long time."

The 24-year-old, the league's biggest draw card, has not played since absorbing two hits to the head in successive games within a week and experiencing post-concussion symptoms.

He was cleared last month to resume full contact after struggling with headaches all year and been steadily increasing his physical workload in practice.

"I don't think he got any crushing blows in practice. He certainly had a fair amount of contact. He was around the net; he was with people," Bylsma said.

"A couple times he got hit to the ice. A couple times he had some contact into the boards in puck battle situations. That happened over the course of a month or so, five weeks of having those situations.

"He's confident going to the net. He's confident in that traffic area right now. I'm confident you'll see him go to the net hard."

Bylsma said it was unrealistic to expect Crosby, a gold medallist for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, to be at his best after such a long layoff.

"With any player who's been in practice and hasn't been in games and is now going to get back in games it's different," Bylsma said.

"The game is going faster. There are different scenarios, more scenarios. You're talking about a lot of different things. But I think there's going to be a (period of) time before he totally feels comfortable and back, certainly, to the level that he was playing.

"But the one thing I think is easy to see is that in practice, he's one of the best players on the ice. He is the best player on the ice with his speed and the way he plays the game. So he's going to bring that into the game tomorrow."

Bylsma said he planned to have Crosby skate with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis but would initially limit his game time.

"Sidney's adrenaline is going to be going so high that he's going to be tired out a little bit quicker than he normally would," he said.

"He thinks maybe he's only going to be able to play 12 minutes and I laugh because once Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute to get out there.

"I don't know exactly what a number would be, but it's certainly not going to be rushing right back into 20-plus minutes where he was at before."

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