Signs are pointing heavily toward team captain and prolific center Sidney Crosby and veteran forward Jeff Carter suiting up Saturday when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New Jersey Devils. It would seem only a setback will stop them.
That’s the uptake after both were upgraded to the status of “game-time decision” Friday by coach Mike Sullivan after the two players were full participants in practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. As you can see, Sullivan threw around the word “encouraged” relating to the status of both players.
Let Mike Sullivan tell you the good news on Carter, Crosby: pic.twitter.com/gdeErl2t8H
— Shelly Anderson (@_ShellyAnderson) October 29, 2021
Traditionally, when a player is listed as a game-time decision, it means he is expected to play barring something unforeseen.
Carter is just back from COVID-19 protocol after quarantining and having no symptoms. Crosby would be making his season debut after September surgery on his left wrist.
As Sullivan noted, in the practice Friday, “Some of the drills that we did out there were game-real.”
Crosby, Sullivan said, will meet with the Penguins’ medical team to monitor how he responds. But Crosby certainly passes the eye test. As teammate and projected linemate Evan Rodrigues put it: “He looks like Sidney Crosby. I mean, it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. From the first drill in practice it looked like he was going 100 miles an hour, playing at top speed.”
Carter said he expected to speak to the team’s medical staff but that “I felt good out there.”
In fact, because he had no symptoms, “I felt really good the whole time. I didn’t have any issues. I was able to do some bike rides and things like that, but when you’re stuck in the basement there’s not a ton you can do.”
Sullivan offered updates on two other high-profile players who are out.
Defenseman Kris Letang, who has symptoms with COVID-19, is feeling better and even responded to a phone message left by Sullivan a couple days ago.
“Tanger finally called me back,” Sullivan quipped, then added, “He feels a lot better. He rode a bike (Thursday) for 30 minutes at his house. He told me his energy is much better. He’s improving every day.”
Sullivan said part of the process before Letang can return would included monitoring him for any heart anomalies since he has symptoms.
Center Evgeni Malkin is skating some separately from practice and has been projected to return from offseason knee surgery in December. Sullivan said it is his understanding that Malkin is still on schedule.