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CrosbyWatch

Are you getting a little bit grumpy about Sidney Crosby not playing yet? I am. Although I notice my frustration only really flares up after a Penguins loss. And last night’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of the beguiling Tampa Bay Lightning – a team that on one night loses to the hapless Winnipeg Jets and two nights later tame the beast that has become the Pittsburgh Penguins – has got me particularly desirous to see Sid back on the ice.

This also has something to do with my decision that Crosby will be back playing this Monday. I convinced myself of this a while ago, similar to the way many other Pens fans convinced themselves that Sid would be back on 11/11/11. I chose this Monday because it seemed like a soft spot in the schedule. Sunday is an off day, Monday is home against the Islanders, Tuesday another off day, Wednesday again at home, this time against the Blues, Thursday yet another off day, and Friday they close out the homestand against the Senators before heading out on the road for a Saturday night tilt against the Canadiens. Having three home games against middle-tier competition bracketed by off days seems like the friendliest circumstance for his return. The off day Tuesday could be used for medical evaluation, light practice, rest, whatever. Repeat this process on Thursday and, after the Friday night game – assuming he’s still feeling fine – he heads to Montreal and that’s it. He’s back.

This sounds sooooo great in my head that it must happen! Because seriously, if not Monday, then when? I don’t want to sound like a jagoff yinzer, but that’s exactly how I’m going to sound when I say: What’s the hold up here? Sid was cleared for contact on October 13th. My understanding is this was the final huge step in his recovery process. Being cleared for contact meant he would join the rest of his healthy teammates as a full participant in practices. Since being cleared, Sid has indeed been practicing with his team and he has been joining them on road trips. My understanding is he has been doing everything everybody else on the team has been doing except actually playing in games. Medically he is well enough to practice, why can’t he play? How different is practice from a game?

Well, it’s probably significantly different, but for Sid to really gauge how healthy he is practice has to replicate a real game as much as possible. Crosby needs to be hit. He needs to bump his head a few times to learn how it feels. He needs to know if he can sustain a blow to the head without feeling all concussion-y. He needs to play a balls-out shift where he skates hard and gets checked and falls down and does all the things he would do in a game scenario. This is vital to understanding whether or not he is fully recovered. It’s the same with any other injury – at some point you just have to go one-hundred percent and see what happens. Knee feels fine. I think it’s okay. Let’s go give it a shot. See what happens.

But as we know this injury is markedly different from a knee injury. It’s different than any injury for that matter. We have heard this time and again, and I won’t spend time here rehashing the ways in which it’s different. But the fact remains that he must be hit at some point. Somebody has got to lay one on him and see what happens. The problem is none of his teammates are going to do that. None of the Penguins players wants to be the guy that re-concusses The Franchise. Even though the likelihood of actually re-injuring Crosby is very, very slim, the chance exists, and nobody wants to have that on his conscience. Unfortunately this isn’t doing Sid any favors.

It seems to me the only way we’re going to get any idea if Sid can handle game contact is to expose him to some game contact. He’s been well enough to practice at 100% for almost six weeks now. At some point he’s got to pull the trigger. The Penguins are 11-5-3 (25 points) and second in the Atlantic Division, but in their last seven games they’re just 3-3-1. It’s not time to go into panic mode, but Crosby’s presence on the ice clearly would help this team. They need him back out there as soon as possible. I hope it’s Monday, lest you see me at the bridge.

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