How badly does Sidney Crosby want to play now that the Stanley Cup playoffs have arrived?
"I'll wear anything to play," the Penguins center and captain said Tuesday. "If it's a football helmet or whatever it is. Whatever it takes."
Crosby, of course, is expected to wear the same protective jaw shield that he has had attached to his helmet for practice once he returns to the lineup.
It's just not clear when that might be.
Crosby, who missed the final 12 regular-season games after a deflected puck shattered his jaw and knocked out several teeth, had a doctor's appointment Tuesday afternoon where he hoped to get word on whether he was cleared to play tonight. The Penguins open the playoffs with a game against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.
As of Tuesday night, there was no word from the Penguins what the verdict was.
Crosby made it clear he was planning to abide by the medical advice he got about his jaw, which surgically repaired March 31.
"I've been telling him I feel good for the last little while, but at the end of the day I have to make sure things are healed, and he's the one who knows that best, not me," Crosby said after practice at Southpointe. "If you ask any [injured] player, they're always champing at the bit to get back, but it's going to be up to him."
Crosby has been practicing with the team, and before that skating prior to practice. He doesn't think he will need anything more than that and a doctor's go-ahead before plays.
"As soon as he says the word, as long as he feels confident that I can take a hit, then I'll be confident as well," he said. "I'm not going to take any more time. If he says I can I play, then I'm going to play."
Crosby was handily leading the NHL in points with 56 in 36 games when he got hurt. That was good enough for him to finish tied for third at the end of the regular season.
Whether he will be in top form immediately when he returns to the lineup remains to be seen.
"What can I do, right?" he said. "You can't do anything besides get in games and get your timing back. As soon as I get the OK, the best way to get into it is to get used to playing."
He expects to continue wearing the added protective device -- a padded, clear bar that attaches to his helmet, something like a space-age version of a football kicker's faceguard. That's in addition to the visor Crosby always wears.
It's possible he won't have to wear the jaw protector for the duration of the playoffs, particularly since the Penguins are the top seed in the Eastern Conference and are widely predicted to advance deep into the playoffs.
"I haven't gotten that far," Crosby said of a decision on the extra piece of equipment. "I would say probably not, depending on how long we're in [the playoffs]."
He smiled, showing the gap where some bottom teeth have not yet been replaced.
"Hopefully, it's a while so, hopefully, I don't have to wear it the whole time," he said.
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: email@example.com and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published May 1, 2013 4:00 AM