PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby woke up on the first day of the rest of his hockey life and felt something he hadn’t experienced in a long, long time.
Tired. In the best way possible.
“Obviously, it’s been a long time since I played,” Crosby said.
Funny, it didn’t look like it.
Crosby returned from a 10-month layoff while recovering from concussion-like symptoms to score two goals and add two assists in a 5-0 romp over the New York Islanders on Monday.
The spectacular performance left Crosby emotionally drained. Erasing nearly a year of doubt and worry will do that.
Yet there appeared to be no hangover. Crosby joined his teammates in a spirited hour-long practice Tuesday morning, with his legs, his lungs and – most important – his head feeling just fine after his first game in 320 days.
The 24-year-old felt no recurrence of the “fogginess” that kept him sidelined for nearly a year after sustaining head shots in consecutive games last January.
Although he will continue to be monitored, he doesn’t expect to check in with his medical team each day to give them an update.
“Unless there’s really something I need to go to them for I don’t see it being a constant thing,” Crosby said.
Crosby’s breathless debut already has him fielding questions on whether he can win the league scoring title. He trails Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs by 25 points with three quarters of the season to go.
Crosby is more concerned with getting his legs back.
Adrenaline fueled Crosby during most of his nearly 16 minutes on the ice against the overmatched Islanders. It will fade soon enough, perhaps as early as today when the Penguins host St. Louis.
“There are things that as the games go on I’m going to have to improve and get better, but it’s only going to happen through playing,” Crosby said.
Even if it means he has to shake off coach Dave Bylsma to do it. Bylsma felt Crosby’s 15:54 of ice time was just about right but pointed out nearly half of it came in the first period, including a power-play shift Crosby earned by ignoring his coach.
Bylsma was preparing to call for a line change when the penalty was called. Crosby started toward the bench, heard the whistle and immediately veered in the direction of the faceoff dot.
The way his superstar was playing, Bylsma knew he had no chance of winning the argument.