Star player Sidney Crosby times comeback from injury to perfection ahead of play-offs, writes Gregg Patton.
Sidney Crosby's return may provide emotional lift to Pittsburgh Penguins
For the first time since March 30, when his jaw was broken and several of his teeth shattered by a deflected puck, Crosby practiced last week. He wore a cumbersome mask to protect his healing jaw, and the device may limit his vision.
The longer the top-seeded Penguins survive in the post-season, the more likely it is that the 25-year-old centre will see action. But the anticipation from fans, media and Crosby himself is already building.
"It's really not up to me," Crosby said after his first practice about his uncertain return. "It's something the doctors have to feel comfortable with."
Even so, it is the play-offs, when having your best players competing is a matter of urgency. After Crosby was hurt it seemed obvious that the multi-talented Penguins would be able to stay at or near the top of the Eastern Conference without their captain.
Speculation then centred on the post-season as the return target.
Of course, the world of science does not make the distinction, recognising no magical healing power in the date of April 30.
However, sometimes a team in a tough spot does feel emotional magic when a valued teammate returns suddenly, perhaps sooner than expected, from injury.
The Penguins may not need to play that card, but do not be surprised if they do.
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