A word of caution to Sidney Crosby as he resumes his National Hockey League career Monday night after a lengthy concussion layoff; keep your head up.
Any belief that opposing players will feel compelled to treat Sid the Kid with kid gloves upon his return to the game need to look no further than Eric Lindros to shatter that assumption.
Once one of the most feared and dominating players in the NHL, Lindros had missed 10 weeks recovering from a series of concussions when he returned to the lineup of the Philadelphia Flyers back in May of 2000.
It was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference playoff and Lindros was playing in just his second game since his return.
That didn’t stop Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils from lowering the boom on Lindros as he tried to cross the Devils blueline, catching him with his head down with a shoulder to the jaw.
It remains one of the most famous bodychecks in NHL history and Lindros dropped like a sack of hammers, his career never the same.
Lindros would retire from the game in 2007 at the age of 34.
While nobody wants to see the game’s best talent suffer the same fate, Crosby will need to keep his guard up.
There’s a reason why NHL coaches are loath to shed any light on the injuries suffered by their players apart from the absurdly obligatory “upper body” revelation.
Hockey at the level of the NHL is a violent game and players will do what they can to gain any competitive edge.
That’s not to say the Islanders will be looking to greet Crosby with a head shot.
But don’t think for a minute the Islanders, or any other NHL team, are going to make things easy for No. 87 by giving him a wide berth.
Crosby knows this and he won’t expect any special treatment once he takes to the ice. Everybody is anticipating how Crosby will react when he takes a punishing bodycheck for the first time.
There is one school of thought that the Islanders at first might be hesitant at playing it overly rough with Crosby.
That will quickly change once Crosby makes an Islander or two look silly with his deft puck-handling abilities, and then all bets will be off.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylmsa said it is unrealistic to assume that Crosby will be seeing 20-plus minutes of ice-time right off the bat in his first game back.
“There will be some time before he totally feels comfortable and back to the level that he was playing when he went on that point streak,” Bylsma said on the team’s website. “Sometimes Game 1 is on adrenaline and it takes a few games for players to get that timing back and speed of the game.”