Posted on: March 30, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 2:59 pm

Sidney Crosby cleared to skate with team

Sidney Crosby was cleared by doctors to participate in game-day skates and will join the Pittsburgh Penguins on their current trip.

Crosby will be on the ice with his teammates Thursday for the first time since a concussion forced him out of the lineup on Jan. 5. The Pens' two-game trip takes them to Tampa Bay (Thursday) and Florida (Saturday). Game-day skates are typically non-contact.

"I have no expectations of him coming back and playing in the regular season. That’s not going to happen," Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero told reporters Wednesday.  "In terms of playing in the playoffs for us, that’s something that’s still two or three weeks away (from exploring)."

In fact, Pat Brisson, Crosby's agent, tells CBSSports.com that there has been no talk about a return date. Crosby has been followed closely by team physician Charles Burke and concussion expert Michael Collins, who would have to first OK Crosby's return to full-contact practices. 

“Everybody involved recognizes that this takes time," Brisson said. "We haven’t even come to a point where it’s been discussed when he can return to contact hockey. There have not been any discussions among the medical staff, Dr. Collins, myself, Ray Shero and Sidney about when he’s coming back to play. Not at all.”

Still, Brisson said Wednesday's news is surely welcome.

“This is a nice step and we’re going in the direction toward his recovery," he said. "Still, we’re not jumping to any conclusions here. He’ll be able to participate in some sessions with his teammates, but not all of them.”

Crosby has done individual, on-ice workouts since March 14, upping the duration of each session over time. He did not skate today, although this was a scheduled day off. 

Shero said he doesn't expect Crosby to endanger himself by coming back too soon. 

"He knows his injury at this point," Shero said. "My expectation at this point is that he’s not going to push himself too much, but he’ll push himself enough where he feels good and if he doesn’t he’ll pull back a little bit."

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:30 am

Morning Skate: Bylsma deserves Jack Adams votes

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may have wrapped up the Jack Adams Award on Monday. 

There are plenty of deserving candidates for the NHL’s version of coach of the year. Alain Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks were the first team to clinch a playoff berth and are likely to lay claim to the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy.  Jacques Lemaire was plucked out of retirement and led the New Jersey Devils from the basement to a chance at the postseason in few short months. Peter Laviolette has had the Philadelphia Flyers in first place in the East for most of the season. 

Still, Bylsma’s coaching effort can’t be overlooked. He’s lost Evegni Malkin for the season to a knee injury and his superstar center, Sidney Crosby, hasn’t played since the first week of January due to a concussion and his return this season remains a question mark. He’s also seen cogs like forwards Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz along with defenseman Brooks Orpik miss time. 

The Pens entered play Monday night with 296 man games lost due to injury --- and that’s not counting the suspensions. The most recent was handed down before Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings as the league slapped forward Matt Cooke with a ban that extends through the rest of the regular season (10 games) and the first round of the playoffs.

Line Changes

Then the Penguins went on to beat the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout. While it’ll be a stretch for the Pens to overtake the Flyers in the Atlantic Division, the chance they could remain in fourth and host a first-round series is a feat all things considered. 

Bylsma shrugged off all the "woe is me" talk when he spoke to The Grand Rapids Press’ Michael Zuidema on Monday

“From within our room, we don’t feel like we’ve dealt with as much adversity as people outside our room think that we’ve dealt with,” he said. “We understand that there are injuries and I don’t think it’s a lot different than other teams. We’ve continued to focus on how we play and our execution level.”

GM Ray Shero and the Pens scouting staff deserves a nod brining in some help before the trading deadline. Forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen were acquired from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Forward Alexei Kovalev was also brought back to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional draft pick with the Ottawa Senators

Bylsma, the easygoing former NHL player from Grand Haven, Mich., has made the pieces fit and that was recognized earlier this month with a three-year contract extension. Maybe he’ll get that Jack Adams Trophy -- an award voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association -- to go next to the mementos from his 2009 Stanley Cup title run. 

Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 4 (SO)
Los Angeles 2, Calgary 1 (SO)
-- A.J. Perez
Credit: Getty Images
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:15 am
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Posted on: March 21, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 6:55 pm

Cooke suspended through first round of playoffs

Matt Cooke, the Pittsburgh Penguins' controversial forward, was suspended the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, the NHL announced Monday. 

 “Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position," Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior V.P. of hockey operations, announced in a statement. "This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response." 

Cooke was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head ealry in the third period of Sunday’s game. (Here's a look at the replay.) This is the fifth time he’s been suspended during his career and second time this season, making him a repeat offender under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. 

Penguins GM Ray Shero -- who advocated for a zero-tolerance policy on head hits at the NHL's general manager meetings last week -- agreed with Campbell's punishment.

“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game," Shero said in a statement. "Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”

Cooke will forfeit $219,512.20 in salary. The suspension, which could be as much as 17 games if Pens' first-round series is stretched to seven games, is the longest in franchise history. 

Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg told reporters before Monday's game against the Penguins he'd like to have seen an outright ban for the rest of the season. 

"I think the suspensions he gets doesn't really bother him," Zetterberg told USA TODAY. "He keeps going out and doing that stuff."

The loss of Cooke compounds the Pens' lack of depth in the forward ranks. While Chris Kunitz recently returned from injury, Pittsburgh si still minus Sidney Crosby (out indefinitely with a concussion), Evgeni Malkin (out for season with a knee injury), Mike Comrie (hip) and Eric Tangradi (concussion).

"What puts us is a tough spot is when he misses games," Penguins forward Craig Adams told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's a great player, and people don't realize how good of a player he is; if you don't watch him play every night you don't know. We know."

Cooke has 12 goals, 18 assists and is a plus-14 this season. 
-- A.J .Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 3:52 am

Morning Skate: Should teams pay for head hits?

Possibly the most interesting of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s five suggestions to help curb the rise in concussions was penalizing teams and coaches who habitually run afoul of the league's supplementary discipline program.

“The notion is if there's a situation or a club where this seems to be out of the norm, something that continues to happen on a repeated basis, it should be addressed,” Bettman (above, right) told reporters at the GM meetings on Monday. 

We suggested yesterday that it should be called the “Trevor Gillies Rule” -- and that was before ESPN.com reported Mario Lemieux sent a letter to the league asking for a sliding scale. Here’s how Lemieux (above, left) would make the fine structure for teams: 
  • 1-2 games: $50,000 
  • 3-4 games: $100,000 
  • 5-8 games: $250,000 
  • 9-10 games: $500,000 
  • 11-15 games: $750,000 
  • More than 15 games: $1 million 

Gillies, an enforcer on the New York Islanders, received what the Penguins faithful felt was a lenient nine-game ban after a blindside hit to the head of Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi on Feb. 11. In his first game back from suspension, he delivered a similar hit to Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck that resulted in a 10-game suspension. 

The Islanders were fined $100,000 for thier role in the brawl against the Pens, although Isles coach Jack Capuano was not sanctioned.

“While there have been 50-plus suspensions since the start of the 2009-10 season, the suspensions themselves don't seem to be deterring these illegal acts and tactics," wrote Lemieux. "And we've often seen repeat offenders. We think it is time that teams also are held accountable for the actions of their players. We propose instituting a policy of automatically fining a team when one if its players is suspended -- with the amount of the fine based on the length of the suspension. This should serve as a disincentive for teams as well as players to employ these kinds of tactics."

And, as the letter obtained by ESPN.com points out, the Pens would be on the hook for $600,000 had this been put in place before the season thanks to Matt Cooke (four games) and Eric Godard (10 games). 

It will also be interesting to see what will be addressed from an equipment standpoint. The league and the players union have agreed to putting soft caps on elbow and shoulder pads in recent seasons, doing away with the equipment that looked like it was suited more for an offensive lineman than a forward. 

Still, not much has evolved when it comes to the helmet. Few players are using the more advanced Cascade Messier Project helmet introduced a couple years ago and Mark Messier, who teamed with sister on the project, thinks he knows why. 

"I think (NHL players) look at it sometimes and feel that because we live in such a bravado world that if they're wearing that helmet you must have a fear ... that you're afraid," Messier told The Montreal Gazette

Line Changes

He should know. For years he wore the old Jofa lid that was marketed as a broomball helmet with the warning “not for hockey use” when I began playing the sport.

To solve this concussion issue -- if that will ever truly happen -- there needs to be change of attitude on a few different levels. If you’re not going to listen to Bettman for whatever reason, it’s hard to ignore the suggestions from Hall of Famers such as Lemieux and Messier. 

Tampa Bay 6, Toronto 2 
Chicago 6, San Jose 3
Vancouver 4 Minnesota 2

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:32 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 3:48 am
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Posted on: March 14, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 3:35 pm

Video: Crosby talks after first practice in weeks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby talked to reporters after he practiced for about 15 minutes on Monday. He denies that he ever considered retirement, one of many rumors that have floated around since he was forced to shut it down due to a concussion on Jan. 5. 

Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 12:26 pm

Pens extend Dan Bylsma three more seasons

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma agreed to a three-year contract extension that will run through the 2013-14 season, the team announced Wednesday. 

Understandably, the highlight of his 25-month tenure behind the Pens’ bench is leading the team to the 2009 Stanley Cup title, a run that began not long after Bylsma took over for Michel Therrien. But it could be this season’s tutelage that Bylsma might deserve even more credit as he’s kept the Pens in the hunt for the Eastern Conference crown despite a rash of injuries. 

The team has been without star center Sidney Crosby (concussion) for nearly two months and it lost forward Evgeni Malkin to season-ending knee injury on Feb 4. The team also had to start the first two months of the season minus forward Jordan Staal, who was sidelined by foot and hand injuries. 

“Dan has very quickly established himself as one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League,” GM Ray Shero said in a news release. “He has been a perfect fit for our organization since day one, and we look forward to having him leading our team for the next three seasons.

Bylsma, 40, has accumulated a 104-52-19 record in Pittsburgh and he has the highest winning percentage (.649) in franchise history. 

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com