PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma says Sidney Crosby is both excited and anxious ahead of his return to the team’s lineup Monday night against the New York Islanders.
Following the announcement this afternoon that the Penguins’ captain would be returning to game action, Bylsma held a conference call with the media.
“The only thing I can really say is that, I would liken it to the sound you hear in the voice of players that are going to go play in their first National Hockey League game,” said Bylsma of Crosby. “He’s excited, he’s anxious and he’s been wanting to play hockey for a long time.”
In addition to Crosby’s excitement, Bylsma says he expects it to be a boost for the team. He also anticipates some very loud fans at the CONSOL Energy Center.
“Right before that game, when he comes through the tunnel and I think the building [is] going to be going crazy,” he said.
Crosby has been sidelined since January, recovering from a concussion. There has been much speculation recently about Crosby’s return. He participated in training camp earlier this fall and has been practicing regularly with the team.
“He has been progressing and getting closer, and that’s been happening over the course of the last week and a half or so,” Bylsma said. “But really, until he went and saw Dr. Collins today, and in conjunction with Dr. Burke, they saw him today and talked to him and cleared him, and that was when the decision was made that tomorrow would be the day.”
In October, Crosby cleared another hurdle in his recovery when doctors cleared him for contact.
“I don’t think he got, you know, any crushing blows in practice. He certainly had a fair amount of contact,” said Bylsma. “He was around the net, he was with people. He, a couple times, got hit to the ice, a couple times had some contact into the boards in puck battle situations and that happened over the course of a month or so, five weeks of having those situations.”
Bylsma also confirmed that Crosby will be playing with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.
“In terms of the line combinations, tomorrow the plan is for Sidney to skate with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. That’s a line he’s played a lot with in the last… most experienced with on our team and we’ll be starting that way with Sidney,” Bylsma said. “That will continue to leave James Neal with Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, and possibly see Jordan move around as well with Malkin.”
Also, Bylsma says they will be keeping a close eye on Crosby and how much he’s playing.
“There’s always a period where you’re getting back to where your game is at, and you know, I think Sidney’s adrenaline is going to be going so high tomorrow 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 tomorrow, and I laugh cause when Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he’s certainly going to want the 13th minute to get out there if it’s a situation. I don’t know exactly what a number would be, but we’re certainly not going to be rushing right back in to 20 plus minutes, where he was at before.
“He certainly will be watched and monitored and we’ll see how he’s doing and what his conditioning level is in terms of game situations,” Bylsma added. “That one I always laugh at cause when you get those guys in a game, they always want to go out one more shift, so we may have to tie him to the bench a little bit.”