It’s not that the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t deserve a day off after four straight overtime/shootout games and with nine games in 15 days starting Saturday. It’s just that the team canceling Friday’s practice deprives the hockey world of several potential updates, including one on Sidney Crosby.
Crosby could be released from COVID-19 protocol on Saturday, but nothing is clear about what that might mean in terms of him returning to games.
For instance, would he be allowed to travel to Ottawa, whether with the club on Friday or separately on Saturday? Could he participate in the morning skate Saturday?
It would seem to be a longshot that Crosby would play against the Senators on Saturday night.
After all, Crosby had at least some symptoms – he hasn’t had what has become the requisite meeting with reporters asking what he experienced as some of his teammates who had symptomatic cases of COVID-19 have. And since he could not be around the team, he couldn’t skate and we don’t know what kind of workouts he was allowed to do or felt up to doing.
He also apparently will have to pass some tests related to heart issues that can be connected to the virus.
What’s more, Crosby played in just one game coming back from wrist surgery after sitting out the first seven before testing positive for the virus responsible for the pandemic.
He had something of a rough night Oct. 30 in a 4-2 Penguins loss against the New Jersey Devils in his season debut. He was flagged for a third-period penalty that led to Jesper Bratt’s winning penalty-shot goal.
“It’s nice to be back. I love being back out there with the guys. But ultimately, you want to win and play well, and that didn’t happen tonight,” Crosby said then. “So, got some improving to do here.”
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan cut the team captain, first-line center and easily one of hockey’s all-time greats some slack. It is Sidney Crosby we’re talking about.
“I thought he competed hard,” Sullivan said. “It was his first game in five months. We all have high expectations for him. But it’s not easy to jump right into an NHL game.
“Our expectation is that it’s going to take a bit to get his timing. He’ll get better every game.”
Little did Sullivan or Crosby know that both would soon be sidelined after contracting COVID-19.
Sullivan’s status is still evolving. He had symptoms but has been helping to coach from home virtually and won’t need skating sessions or practices to get back into game-coaching shape.
One other update that assistant coach Todd Reirden, who is subbing for Sullivan, mentioned he might have Friday before the practice was canceled, involves defenseman Marcus Pettersson.
Pettersson, in his first game back after a bout with COVID-19, left Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers in the first period after taking a high hit from Owen Tippett.
One other thing about the Penguins’ game Saturday in Ottawa. The Senators have been dealing with a larger COVID-19 outbreak than the Penguins. At last count, they had nine players and an assistant coach in protocol. There was some concern about Thursday’s game against Los Angeles, but that went ahead, a 2-0 Kings win. So far, there is no indication the Penguins’ game in Ottawa will be affected.