x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The time is now for Sidney Crosby comeback

The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar has been out for almost a year and tomorrow's home game against Colorado is an ideal point for him to play again.

Sidney Crosby, left, in practice with Pittsburgh Penguins' teammates on Thursday.
Sidney Crosby, left, in practice with Pittsburgh Penguins' teammates on Thursday.

This appears to be the week in which Sidney Crosby will make his long-awaited, highly anticipated and (presumably) much celebrated return to the NHL after sustaining a concussion last January.

The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar - or the face of the NHL, if you prefer even grander titles - was cleared for contact shortly after the regular season began in October.

He has been skating with his teammates, at full speed, for more than a month.

Hockey pundits first circled Friday, November 11, on the calendar. The Penguins had almost the entire previous week off and they were at home.

The thinking was that Crosby would be able to get in three or four consecutive high-speed work outs with the team and then dress for the game against the Dallas Stars.

The national media was set to converge on Pittsburgh, but the Penguins did not co-operate, and Crosby was nowhere to be seen when the puck dropped for that contest.

Pittsburgh's next home game - against Colorado last Tuesday, - was the next logical date, but the experts were less certain this time after being fooled the previous Friday. Sure enough, Tuesday's game came and went, and there was still no sign of Crosby.

But this week ... surely, this is the week when Crosby suits up. The Penguins announced that he would not play in the weekend's games on the road in Florida against the Lightning and Panthers, which was no surprise as the overriding assumption has been that Crosby would return at home.

Crosby travelled with the team, which would seem to indicate that he is close. And with three home games this week - all nicely spaced out - the stage is set for the return of the game's greatest player.

The Penguins host the New York Islanders tonight, the St Louis Blues on Wednesday and the Ottawa Senators on Friday. Next Saturday, they are on the road against the Montreal Canadiens, Crosby's favourite team when he was a child and a place where he has already had some memorable moments.

While it is fitting that he returns in front of the home fans in Pittsburgh, it is equally appropriate that his first road game is in Montreal.

There is, of course, the possibility that Crosby does not come back this week, that he is still not quite 100 per cent even after nearly 11 months on the sidelines.

But after this week, the Pens only have two home games in the next month. So circle today, Wednesday or Friday, and hope you have guessed right.

sports@thenational.ae