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Hark! The herald angels sing, glory to the pending return of Sidney Crosby(notes) to Pittsburgh Penguins practice.

According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Crosby will accompany the Penguins on their Florida road trip this week and has been cleared by doctors to being practicing again. He hasn't played since Jan. 5, after hits by David Steckel and Victor Hedman(notes) contributed to a concussion that many felt would cost Crosby his season.

From Rossi:

Crosby must still get clearance from doctors to resume playing. The next thing to watch for is how he handles practices, including contact. He has been participating in individual workouts since March 14 -- the latest a 35-minute session Tuesday. Crosby has reported no setbacks during these sessions.

Rossi believes Crosby could see his first full team practice on Thursday or Friday. Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette, however, is reporting that Crosby has been merely cleared to skate, not practice, with his team:

If he is able to get through those skates, in which there is no contact, without difficulty, he will be allowed to take part in practices.

In either case, thus ends the "play him or shut him down" debate. At least that's how it seems. The Penguins have five games left; if he hits the ice on Friday, one week later would be Pittsburgh's game at the New York Islanders. As we asked on Twitter Tuesday: Would you risk that if you're the Penguins, given the recent history between the teams (and with Trevor Gillies(notes) back from suspension)?

This is tremendous news. For the Penguins, who could add Sidney Crosby to a lineup that performed admirably without him and Evgeni Malkin(notes) in 2011. For the NHL, which will now be able to add Sidney Crosby Team Practice Porn to its video collection of Sidney Crosby Stickhandling During Individual Workouts Porn. And for hockey fans, because the NHL is more interesting with him in it.

UPDATE: Penguins GM Ray Shero puts to bed the idea of Crosby in the regular season:

"I just want to take a couple minutes here to address the latest on Sidney Crosby. There's been a lot of speculation out there since he returned to skating a few days ago. He will be rejoining the team tomorrow in practice — but not to get ahead of ourselves. I just want to be clear on a couple things, as an update from myself. While he's cleared to return to practice, we don't anticipate him practicing with us all the time. It's going to be a situation with game day skates. It's a natural return for his progression here. His rehab has been ongoing. He's doing well with it, but at the same time, as a manager, I have no expectations of him  coming back and playing in the regular season, that's not going to happen.

"In terms of playing in the playoffs for us, that's something that's still two or three weeks away. I don't want to take any hope away from the players, but to return to game action for the Stanley Cup playoffs takes a certain type of fitness and game-ready. He is certainly not close to that at this point. While he is doing well, he's making steps and he'll be on the ice tomorrow for a game-day skate with team. It's another step in the progression for him to get him on the ice with 20 other players. This will not be happening every day."

So there you go. Fingers crossed.

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