Sidney Crosby’s return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs became a stronger possibility on Thursday.
Crosby, who broke his jaw in a March 30 game against the New York Islanders, has been medically cleared to practise with his teammates, starting Friday.
The Penguins captain will meet with the medical people overseeing his recovery next week, at which time a determination on his return to the lineup could be made.
On Thursday, Crosby had several root canals to repair some of the damage sustained when he was struck in the face by a deflected slap shot from teammate Brooks Orpik just 88 seconds into that March 30 contest.
Upon his return to game action, Crosby is expected to continue wearing a plastic shield that protects his jaw. It's believed the jaw was fractured into several pieces rather than a clean break and if he were to take another hit in that area the healing process might have to begin anew.
Crosby sat atop the NHL scoring race by a wide margin when he suffered the injury and wasn't caught until Wednesday night, 25 days later, when Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis scored a hat trick against Toronto to give him 58 points. His Lightning teammate, Steven Stamkos, had a goal and assist to move into a tie with Crosby.
Penguins defenceman Paul Martin (hand surgery) and winger James Neal (concussion) skated Thursday morning in Newark, N.J., but weren't expected to suit up later that night against the Devils.
Neal hasn't played since being diagnosed with a concussion following a hit from New York Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto on April 5.
Blue-liner Brooks Orpik and centre Joe Vitale, both of whom have unspecified injuries, did not make the trip.
Lundqvist's Huge Save - 1/19/13
Tarasenko Goes For Two - 1/19/13
Rupp and Thronton Engage - 1/19/13
Orpik Destroys Kreider - 1/20/12
Brunner's First Time - 1/21/13
Gaborik's OT Hat Trick - 1/23/13
Orr and Engelland Go At It - 1/23/13
Nail Yakupov Celebration - 1/24/13
Lecavalier's Top Shelf One-Timer - 1/27/13
Ovie's First Of The Season - 1/27/13
Lehtonen's Save Of The Year - 1/28/13
Brodeur's Breakdance Save - 2/5/13
Fleury's Cartwheel Save - 2/5/13
Hejduk Scores In 1,000th Game - 2/5/13
Rinaldo Drops Crombeen - 2/5/13
Jagr Takes It In OT -2/6/13
Varlamov's Robbery - 2/6/12
Datsyuk Weaves, Goes Top Shelf - 2/10/13
Marchand's Last-Minute Equalizer - 2/12/13
Crawford's Slick Save - 2/12/13
Nash's Nasty Assist - 2/12/13
Subban's Sweet Block - 2/16/13
Stamkos One-Timer - 2/16/13
Kesler's Sick Snipe - 2/17/13
Bob's Big Save - 2/19/13
Datsyuk Goes End-To-End - 2/19/13
Flyers Get One On A Scramble - 2/20/13
Kane's Shootout Schtick - 3/3/13
Malkin Leaps Past Defense - 3/4/13
Cammalleri Beats Luongo - 3/4/12
Fehr's OT Game-Winner - 3/4/12
Lundqvist Robs Buffalo - 3/12/13
Price's Sick Save - 3/16/13
Ovechkin Nets 350th Goal - 3/17/13
Fisher's Spinning Backhand Goal - 3/19/13
Subban's Nasty Shot - 3/21/13
Quick Robs Daley - 3/21/13
Brodeur Nets His Third Career Goal - 3/21/13
Datsyuk Scores 250th Goal - 3/22/13
Classic Stamkos Goal - 3/26/13
Lundqvist's Sick Poke Check - 3/28/13
Datsyuk's Crossover Fakes Out Couture - 3/28/13
Rinne Robs Duchene - 3/30/13
Iginla Nets His First With Pittsburgh - 4/2/13
Dan Boyle Goes End To End - 4/2/12
Ovechkin Goes Top Shelf - 4/2/13
Backes Scores From the Ice - 4/5/13