The Penguins will have their top center back in the lineup tonight as the team announced (Twitter link) that he has been activated off injured reserve and will play against New Jersey. Meanwhile, head coach Mike Sullivan also confirmed to reporters including Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that center Jeff Carter has been cleared from COVID protocol and will also suit up.
Crosby has missed all seven games this season after undergoing wrist surgery in early September to repair what GM Ron Hextall termed as something that the captain has played through for several years. The 34-year-old has averaged more than a point per game in all 16 of his NHL seasons and will be a huge addition to a Pittsburgh attack that has been down several key pieces.
One of those was Carter whose strong start on the top line was suddenly stalled with his placement in COVID protocol. The 36-year-old has a goal and three assists in four games this season while logging nearly 20 minutes a night. His playing time should decrease with Crosby returning but he’ll still play a prominent role inside their top six.
Pittsburgh had been carrying two open roster spots with just the minimum of 12 forwards so there will be no corresponding roster moves necessary to activate both players.
While this is undoubtedly a big boost for the Penguins, they’re still without defenseman Kris Letang (COVID protocol), winger Bryan Rust (who skated with a non-contact sweater today), and center Evgeni Malkin who remains sidelined as he works his way back from a knee injury.