Pittsburgh Penguins injured center and captain Sidney Crosby could return to the lineup Sunday, a day after he was a full participant in practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Crosby and coach Mike Sullivan sounded upbeat about the possibility.
“I’m trying to get as much contact as I can in,” said Crosby, who previously was restricted from contact. “I haven’t ruled out anything … I’m sure I’ll see how I feel after (Saturday).”
“We’re not ruling out anything. We’re going to take each day as it comes,” Sullivan said. He also said Crosby “had another strong day” and that the Penguins are “encouraged by his progress.”
There has been much speculation and curiosity about the line combinations when Crosby returns. Reports Saturday from Arizona indicated he was skating with Patric Hornqvist, with Jared McCann and Dominik Simon both seeing time as his other winger. That left what has been the top line intact — Evgeni Malkin between Dominik Kahun and Bryan Rust.
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Asked what McCann — who also has played center but spent some time last season on Crosby’s wing — could bring to his line, Crosby said, “I think his speed opens up a lot, but then he’s able to finish.”
Crosby also practiced with the top power play unit.
The Penguins are looking to finish their Western Conference road trip 3-0 with a win Sunday against Phil Kessel and the Arizona Coyotes.
Crosby had surgery Nov. 14 for a sports hernia, or core muscle injury.
For the past several days, Crosby had been alternating between skating in practice in a no-contact capacity and skating separately from the team. He said being cleared for contact was the step he was waiting for to get back to being a regular practice participant.
Thursday, he took a scheduled day off from skating, ruling out a return for Friday’s game at Colorado.
Friday morning, he did not skate with fellow injured players Nick Bjugstad and Justin Schultz because, Crosby confirmed, he was ill. That missed chance to practice could factor into whether he returns Sunday. “It’s too bad I missed that practice the other day, but that’s just how it goes,” Crosby said.
Bjugstad and Schultz skated after practice Saturday.