Sidney Crosby Cleared for Full Contact, but Penguins Fans Still Face Wait

James ConleyContributor IIIOctober 13, 2011

The Penguins have won three of four with Crosby and Orpik out of the lineup, and Malkin has missed two straight. Hard to imagine what the team will do when all are healthy.
The Penguins have won three of four with Crosby and Orpik out of the lineup, and Malkin has missed two straight. Hard to imagine what the team will do when all are healthy.Karl Walter/Getty Images

After Sidney Crosby was spotted donning a black helmet at Thursday's morning skate—the same color as the rest of his teammates—the assumption was safe.

Sid had been cleared for contact.

"I'm cleared for full contact," Crosby said. "It's a good step in the right direction. We'll see how it goes in the next little bit."

For those following Sid's recovery closely, this is a big step in the recovery process. Crosby hasn't played since January 5 of this year and may end up going a full 10 months before taking the ice in his first game back.

Prior to the opening of training camp, Crosby and his doctors, Mickey Collins and Ted Carrick, weren't sure if he would even be a full participant of training camp.

He was, with no recurrence of symptoms. Crosby has stated that he has been exerting himself to the fullest extent in practices from the very beginning of camp, which opened almost a month ago today.

After a month of all-in practices with no recurrence of symptoms, it's apparently time to take the next step.

So, how soon after taking bumps from his teammates in a controlled environment will Crosby be allowed to hit the ice in a game situation?

Good luck.

As with all other phases of his recovery, the team, its doctors and Crosby will place no timetable on his graduation to the next step of the recovery process, which is, of course, appearing in a game.

“I’m not going to give you a timetable [on Crosby's return to a game situation] and not going to make one right now,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.

As several outlets reported, Crosby did not take contact this morning as there was no contact for anyone in the pregame morning skate.

How the team introduces him to contact still has to be determined, but fans should expect a good stretch of time between the first bump in practice and the team clearing their $8.7 million man for full speed hockey against real opponents.

"I might have to do something to get [teammates] to hit me," Crosby said. "Maybe I'll have to bump them a little bit and get them going. As close to a game situation as we can get it."

While there's no timetable on his return, there's no need to rush him.

The Penguins have taken seven of eight points to start their season, gaining three of those points with Evgeni Malkin also sitting out.

When the team lost both Sid and Geno for the last half of last season, they were forced to play more systematically in order to win without relying on their stars.

What a valuable lesson that has been. Scoring in the first four games has come from up and down the lineup, and the penalty kill is still the best in the league (no goals allowed through four games).

With depth to spare and Malkin's eventual return (he is only day-to-day with soreness), the Penguins can give Crosby all the time he needs to make sure he is indeed game-ready.