With Sidney Crosby's return to NHL action scheduled for Monday night, it was on Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma to attempt to maintain perspective and expectations.
Good luck with that …
Bylsma, who spoke to the media hours after Crosby's return was announced, said that Crosby had been "progressing, getting closer" for the last week and a half, and he was finally given the green light by physicians on Sunday. The coach said that Crosby will skate with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on Monday against the New York Islanders, two linemates with whom Crosby is very familiar.
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Crosby hasn't played since Jan. 5, and Bylsma said it might take Crosby some time to get used to playing in game situations and within the Penguins' system. We've laughed about that. He might need a refresher when he comes to the rink tomorrow morning," he said.
Among the other questions and answers from Bylsma's Sid presser:
Q. Will Sidney be wearing any special equipment, like a modified helmet?
BYLSMA: "Sidney will continue to wear the equipment he's been wearing in practice since training camp started. I don't know specifically any, if all, modifications that have been [made to that] helmet."
How long will it take for Sidney to play like he always has?
"I think any player that's been in practice and hasn't been in games, and is now going to back in games, I think it's different. Games go faster. I think there's going to be time before he totally feels comfortable, and back to the level where he was playing when he went on that point streak. The one thing that was easy to see was in practice, he was the best player on the ice. His speed, the way he plays the game. He's going to bring that into the game tomorrow."
Will his ice time be limited?
"In talking with players that are returning back ... there's always a period of getting back to where your game is at. I think Sidney's adrenaline's going to be going so high tomorrow I think he's going to be tired out a little bit quicker than he normally would.
"He thinks maybe he's only going to be able to play 12 minutes, and I laugh because when Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute.
"I'm not sure what that number might be, but we're certainly not rushing back to 20 minutes like we did before. There are certain circumstances — if there are more power plays — where his minutes could be a little more than we planned. But he will be watched and monitored."
How was he when he got hit in practice?
"I don't think he got any crushing blows in practice. He had a fair amount of contact. He was around the net, we was with people, and a couple times got hit to the ice, a couple times got contact into the boards on puck battle situations. I think initially, when he started, there was a getting used to going into those areas. In the last four weeks, there's been a lot of initiating going to the net, going to those areas, finding contact, winning pucks. As much as can be done in practice, he's been getting that over a period ot time.
"He has been hit, gone to the ice a couple of times, he has crashed into the net. As our guys find out, he's a hard guy to hit. A hard guy to go after and hit hard. He's confident in those areas. I'm confident in seeing him go to the net hard tomorrow night."