When Sidney Crosby was at the top of his game in recent seasons it wasn't uncommon to see the Penguins send him out on the ice for well over 21, 22 or even 23 minutes per game. Seeing as how he hasn't played in a game since Feb. 5 of last season, and is coming back from a rather significant concussion, he's probably not going to be counted on for that sort of workload on Monday when he returns to the ice against the New York Islanders.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was asked on Sunday evening whether or not Crosby's ice-time would be limited in his first game back, and as expected, it will definitely be monitored.
"In talking with players that are returning there's always a period of getting back to where your game is at," said Bylsma. "I think Sidney's adrenaline is going to be going so high tomorrow, I think he's going to be tired out a little bit quicker than he normally would. He thinks maybe he's only going to be able to play 12 minutes, and I laugh because when Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute. I'm not sure what that number might be, but we're certainly not rushing back to 20 minutes like we did before."
Bylsma also added that depending on what happens during the game, such as the number of minutes the Penguins spend on the power play, there are situations that could result in his playing time being a bit higher than expected. He also added on Monday following the Penguins' morning skate that there isn't a predetermined number of minutes, and that the game will dictate the number of minutes he plays.
|More on Crosby's Return|
Crosby's return is, obviously, being greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm in Pittsburgh and around the NHL, and expectations are already through the roof. There's even been some discussion as to whether or not he can still compete for the NHL's scoring title this season despite being nearly 20 games behind the rest of the league. Just to put a number on that, if we assume that the NHL scoring lead will fall somewhere in the area of 105 points, he would need to average nearly 1.69 points per game. He was averaging 1.61 last season, which was the highest mark of his career, before being sidelined.
Expecting that level of play right off the start is expecting too much.
He hasn't played in nearly a full calendar year and is coming off a significant injury. And for as talented as he is, you have to think there's going to be an adjustment period. Try and forget about scoring titles and point totals for right now and just try to take it one game at a time in the beginning.