Crosby progressing while his Penguins thrive

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is still progressing, but his team is thriving without him.

Crosby’s well-documented absence isn’t the only injury the Penguins have had to overcome this season. Pittsburgh has been one of the most injury-plagued teams in 2011-12, with over 300 man games lost.

Despite this, the Penguins sit comfortably in fourth place in the East with 83 points — the second highest point total in the conference behind division rival New York Rangers — and have won nine of their last 11 games.

“I’m impressed, not surprised,” Crosby said after the team’s morning skate Wednesday. “We have a lot of character here. Guys who have won and understand the adversity teams go through during the season. We’ve missed a lot of guys and different points this season. Unfortunately that’s been the case the last few seasons but I think there’s experience with that and we’ve handled it great.”

Crosby, who has registered 12 points in his eight games played this season, is eagerly looking forward to returning to the lineup but knows it’s a slow, day-to-day process.

“That excitement is always there,” Crosby said. “You try not to think about it too much. You never know how long the process is going to be so you don’t want to get too far ahead.”

The 24-year-old centre has been sidelined with concussion symptoms and neck problems since early December, but was cleared for contact Tuesday and is nearing a comeback.

“Obviously there wasn’t much going on (Wednesday) with a morning skate but the days between games we’ll try to make the most of those and get some contact and try to push myself there and see how I feel, but (the first practice with contact) went really well,” Crosby said.

Penguins executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero is confident Crosby will play before the season is done.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Shero told Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Wednesday. “He has really, really worked hard on and off the ice the last couple of months; he’s in really good shape.”

Shero pointed out that the Penguins didn’t make any major moves at the NHL trade deadline because they wanted to have room to insert Crosby into the lineup when he is able to return to action.

The Penguins will be looking for a seventh consecutive win as they host the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday at the Consol Energy Center.

POLL:

Do you think the Pittsburgh Penguins can win the Stanley Cup without Sidney Crosby?

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