March 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) skates down the boards looking to pass the puck against the New York Rangers during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Crosby cleared to practice with Pittsburgh Penguins

There remains no timetable for his return to game action, but Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared to practice as his broken jaw continues to heal.

This news comes courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari, who reports that although Crosby should be on the ice with his teammates Friday, he will definitely not skate in Saturday’s regular-season finale against Carolina at home.

Putting that uncertainty aside, this promising development for the Penguins gives them reasonable hope that they will be at full strength once the playoffs start next week.

Consol Energy Center has a Black Keys concert scheduled for Tuesday, so the earliest the Penguins could open their first-round series is Wednesday. Pittsburgh has locked up home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs by merit of securing the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed.

Crosby was leading the NHL scoring race – and the unofficial league MVP debate – by a wide margin when a deflected Brooks Oprik slap shot struck him in the face March 31. The Penguins have gone 7-3 in his absence, but Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have finally overtaken Crosby for first on the NHL points list.

Pittsburgh has been without Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, James Neal and Paul Martin and Crosby for various stretches in the past few weeks. The latter three have yet to return, although Martin and Neal might dress for Saturday’s game.

Tags: 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

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