Sidney Crosby is just one concussion case leaving NHL experts a bit dizzy as they struggle to forecast the stretch run.
Recovery times for these injuries are almost impossible to predict. The risk of re-injury is high. Many teams with Stanley Cup aspirations will have to deal with these uncertainties during the decision weeks ahead.
So when Sid the Kid resume skating with teammates Monday, was this an exciting development for the Pittsburgh Penguins? Or was this just another tease?
Crosby skated for the first time in more than six weeks. He worked on a line with injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres, who are both on the mend from knee injuries. Crosby’s return to the rink came after he learned about his neck bone fractures that had gone undetected previously.
Those fractures have apparently healed, but he is undergoing independent medical evaluation.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters that Crosby “was pretty excited about being on the ice and back with some of his teammates” and “going at a fair clip” during Monday’s session.
Maybe we’ll see Crosby before the end of this season after all. Or maybe we won't.
Meanwhile, here are some other cases to keep an eye one:
Andy McDonald, W-C, St. Louis Blues: He went through his first practice without the “no-contact” sweater, signaling that his return is becoming imminent. Since this team doesn’t play its first post-break game until Friday, he will get four practices to ramp up his work pace and test his recovery. “No timetable,” McDonald told St. Louis reporters. "This is just kind of the next step to be able to get out there and take some contact in practice and see where I fit in that regard and see how the body reacts from getting bumped around. It's nice to be able to compete for real and get some contact out there.”
Alex Steen, W-C, Blues: He appeared on track to return before the All-Star Game, but he couldn’t quite rid himself of concussion symptoms. Although he was back on the ice with McDonald and his other teammates Monday, he continued to proceed cautiously in his comeback. “There's nothing really to say about it,” he said. “You get off the ice and right now, you just wait and see how it is. I'm not going to diagnose myself every minute of practice or every minute of the day. If I'm doing that, I'm not ready to go. When I'm ready to go, I won't be thinking about it. I'm just going to let it take its time.”
Nathan Horton, W, Boston Bruins: He suffered what the team believed to be a mild concussion Jan. 22 in Philadelphia, but he hasn’t even resumed exercising. That suggests that Boston’s first-line power forward could be sidelined for a while. Given his previous concussion history and his importance to the team, the Bruins will handle his recovery with treat care.
Evander Kane, W, Winnipeg Jets: Coming out of the break, this cornerstone power forward stopped by in Philadelphia to see his teammates before they played the Flyers. But the reunion was brief. He returned to Winnipeg for further evaluation of his concussion. “He’s probably a little ways away because we've got to get him working out, but he's feeling better,” Jets coach Claude Noel told the Winnipeg Free-Press. “We'll see what his assessment is there. I think he still has some areas of symptoms. We haven't got to the stage where he is working out yet and that's probably a little ways away.”
Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals: He did not skate during the All-Star Break, which means he is no closer to returning. The Washington Post noted that the Caps’ top-line center has skated for just five minutes since Jan. 6.
Daniel Briere, C, Philadelphia Flyers: He was back on the ice Monday with teammates in Philadelphia, but he departed before the hitting began. Given all the concussion trouble this team has endured this season – including the loss of defenseman Chris Pronger until next season as the earliest – expect a cautious comeback here.
James van Riemsdyk, W, Flyers: He, too, practiced Monday. But, too, left the ice before the hitting began. Until he is cleared for contact, he can’t really evaluate the latter the stages of his recovery.
Guillaume Latendresse, W, Minnesota Wild: He is back on the ice but not participating in contact drills. He has missed 32 of the team’s last 34 games with concussion symptoms and hasn’t played since Dec. 14. He could return more quickly than teammate Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has been sidelined since Jan. 4 because of post-concussion syndrome.