Penguins’ Sidney Crosby expected to be back from injury next week

Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston bring you up to speed on the latest news around the NHL, touching on the upcoming NHL All-Star festivities, future outdoor games in Canada, and trade talks.

It looks like the lengthy injury stint for Sidney Crosby is nearing an end, as he prepares to make his return to the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ lineup.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada that Crosby is in the final days of his absence since having sports hernia surgery.

“He skated today with the Penguins in Arizona and took full contact,” Johnston said. “At that practice, he wouldn’t actually even rule out potentially playing in Sunday’s game against the Coyotes.”

While a potential return for Crosby against Arizona would be the best-case scenario for Pittsburgh, Johnston believes he is more likely to return at some point next week. When the 32-year-old is ready to return, he won’t get a lot of time to get back up to speed with the Penguins playing six games in the next 10 days.

Earlier in the week, Crosby took an errant shot by Patric Hornqvist off the top of the helmet and took it upon himself to make light of the situation on Saturday when speaking to reporters about being out as long as he has been.

“The hockey gods don’t want me in the lineup right now, I guess,” Crosby said jokingly to Penguins team reporter Michelle Crechiolo. “Glad it didn’t get me in the head. You can look at it two different ways, right? Didn’t get hit in the face and I’m here to talk about it and laugh about it. Just another bit of adversity in the whole getting back.”

Crosby hasn’t played since Nov. 9, after undergoing surgery on Nov. 14. His return will provide some much-needed relief for the Penguins, whose injury woes continues when forward Jake Guentzel was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 31 with a shoulder injury.

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan believes having his captain back at practice has had a big impact on the team because of the presence he has on the ice and the way he competes during drills.

“When he practices, it’s amazing the influence he has on our team,” Sullivan said. “The pace of the practice just elevates significantly.

“I think that’s just a credit to how hard he works and his practice habits. It’s contagious amongst our group. I know our guys are excited when he’s out there with us. I think it improves our team morale. Our energy was great today. We really liked the pace. And we thought Sid had a strong practice.”

In 17 games this season, Crosby has five goals and 12 assists.

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