By: Casey Shea

C-Day has officially arrived.

The Pittsburgh Penguins held true to their word about letting everyone know a day in advance of Sidney Crosby’s return to the lineup.

Sunday afternoon, the Penguins confirmed the end of Crosby Watch with an announcement on their website.

It’s only one sentence, but it’s what the hockey world has been waiting to hear since January.

In short, Crosby is back and will play tomorrow night against the New York Islanders.

If you were going to miss tomorrow’s game because of previous engagements, no one will blame you for rescheduling. There hasn’t been this much hype about Crosby playing since he made his NHL debut in 2005.

I’ll admit I was off on a projected return date for Crosby. I”ll gladly admit to being wrong in this case since he’s coming back earlier than my prediction.

What I will say is don’t expect Crosby to play 20 minutes tomorrow night, unless there are a bunch of power play opportunities. Just keep in mind that this is the first game he will have played since Jan. 5.

It’s going to take a couple of games for Crosby to find his game legs and get his timing back. No matter how hard you go in practice, you can never recreate game speed.

The intensity ramps up for a game, things become quicker, etc. Treat these first few games as a tune up for “The Ferrari.”

Also, be prepared to hold your breath every time he gets hit. Consciously or subconsciously, you will likely have a nervous twitch every time an Islander goes near him.

We just have to trust that the doctors and Penguins’ medical staff have done their jobs and prepared him as best as possible for this momentous occasion.With how long the process has taken for him to get back, I have complete faith that he is at 100 percent.

The last time anyone saw Crosby on the ice in a game, Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman boarded him up high. Crosby got up with a pained look on his face and walked down the tunnel with trainers.

I can’t imagine the ovation he’s going to get tomorrow night when he emerges from the tunnel once again. It’s going to be as loud as a playoff game.

The crowd went nuts when he came out in street clothes at the home -opener this season. Imagine what it’s going to be like when Captain Crosby comes out in full gear.

At some point in the evening, PA Announcer Ryan Mill will scream something to the effect of, “Hey fans! Welcome back number 87, Sidney Crosby!” and the roof could very well come off the building.

What a night it will be to finally see Crosby back on the ice. Just keep in mind that the Penguins are currently tied for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia.

They were able to accomplish this early season success without arguably the best player in the world. Trying to ponder how good this team can be with him back in the lineup is mind-boggling.

Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and James Neal have been phenomenal so far this season. Adding Crosby to the mix makes the Penguins even more dangerous.

It’s been a rough 11 months of watching the Penguins’ stars deal with injuries. The roster is finally almost fully healthy once again.

Zbynek Michalek and Dustin Jeffrey are also close to getting back into the lineup.

Head coach Dan Bylsma will once again be forced to set a lineup from a very deep talent pool. All in all, it’s a good problem to have.

It sure is a fun time to be a Penguins fan isn’t it?

The final step in the recovery process is to see how he reacts to being back in the lineup for games.

We’ll find out tomorrow night.

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For More Penguins Coverage Check Out Puck Talk With Popchock.


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