Months of anxiety and anticipation are about to end - Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby is set to return to action on Friday. "Sid the Kid" had been out since sustaining a concussion in January last season.
Comeback of Sid the Kid in Pittsburgh
The waiting is almost over for all those who have been missing a genuine superstar of hockey.
This Friday fans could finally get to see what they have been anticipating for months: Sidney Crosby playing an NHL game.
If the media speculation is to be believed, Crosby will rejoin the Pittsburgh Penguins at the weekend for his first competitive action since sustaining a concussion last January.
The Penguins' captain and face of the franchise, "Sid the Kid" has been out for more than 10 months, practically a lifetime when you are an ultra-elite athlete. But after a long, slow rehabilitation, Crosby was cleared for contact just days after the puck dropped on the 2011/12 NHL regular season in early October.
Usually when that happens, players return to action within a week or so. But this is a very unusual 24 year old and a very unusual situation.
Crosby, his doctors and the Penguins have continued to err on the side of caution. Crosby himself said he wants to wait until he is 100 per cent and be able to play at the same high level as he was before David Steckel ran him over at the Winter Classic and then Victor Hedman drove him into the end boards a few days later.
It will not be easy. Crosby, who has already won a league MVP award, Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal, had taken his play to another level in the first half of last season. He was running away with the NHL scoring lead and was well on his way to another Hart Trophy.
Then, misfortune, in the form of Steckel's shoulder and the huge Hedman.
The Penguins, it must be said, fared well without Crosby - and without Evgeni Malkin, who went down with a season-ending knee injury last February and just returned at the start of this season. Pittsburgh relied on Marc-Andre Fleury, their goaltender, Jordan Staal, the versatile centre, and a capable supporting cast to finish fourth in the East and took a 3-1 series lead on Tampa Bay in the first round of the play-offs before losing three successive games.
It was a confidence booster for the Pens to realise they could win without their two best players, but of course, Pittsburgh are a much better team with their superstars healthy and in the line-up.
Which brings us to this Friday.
The Pens have returned home after a road trip, with several days off before the November 11 tilt against the Dallas Stars.
Crosby has several days in a row to practise with his teammates, to be hit a bit and see how he reacts, to skate all-out and get into a game-ready groove.
Roll on Friday.