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He's Back!

By Michael Shea

It’s news that Penguins fans have been waiting for since January. Sidney Crosby was cleared for contact today, and resumed full scale practice with his team, the next step in his comeback from his concussion. Crosby skated on a line with his regular wing Chris Kunitz, and last year’s trade deadline pick up James Neal. Sid the Kid had the media buzzing on a day that didn’t need much buzz with the Washington Capitals in town for a game tonight. Crosby, who hasn't played in an NHL games since Jan. 5 because of a concussion, had been wearing an off-color helmet during practices dating to the start of training-camp sessions Sept. 17. That designated him as a "non contact" player. “It’s a big step,” Crosby said. “I’ve got to get hit at some point during practice, but we’re playing so many games right now that its tough getting hit.”

It was reported earlier this week that Crosby would be meeting with his medical team and good news was expected. What was expected is that he would start to tune up his workouts even further, but the fact that he was cleared for full contact seemed to catch everyone off guard. There remains no official timetable for his return, and with 13 games in October it will be hard to work Sid into a normal practice schedule. Various Penguin insiders have suggested an early November return to game action, but don’t be surprised if it happens sooner than that.

The Penguins other star center Evgeni Malkin has been out the past two games with knee soreness, but may return to face his countrymen Alex Ovechkin in a game that will raise funds for the families of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL team that died in a plane crash last month. Jersey’s and other items from tonight’s game will be auctioned off and a special pre-game ceremony is planned. Malkin’s knee is the same one that was injured last season, but no long term effects are expected.

In other Penguin news, winger Chris Kunitz was rewarded with a 2 year contract extension through the 2013-2014 seasons. His salary cap hit will remain at $3.725 million annually. Kunitz has said recently that he wanted to retire a Penguin, and at age 32, that seems to be a reality now.

What started out as an exciting day in Penguin land, turned into another Great Day For Hockey.

Follow Michael on twitter at @mshea46w

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