Though they are technically not yet on the active roster, Sidney Crosby and Brian Dumoulin will be back in the coming days. Both players skated today and are expected to meet the rest of the team in Washington on Sunday, where the Penguins will play the Capitals in the second half of a back-to-back. Crosby and Dumoulin are both going through what the team has deemed the “final stage” of the protocol, though assistant coach Todd Reirden wouldn’t commit to their status for tomorrow’s game.
Reirden himself likely won’t have the final decision, as head coach Mike Sullivan is also set to be back behind the bench tomorrow night. Chad Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson, who both exited the protocol for one game only to be unavailable to travel to Canada with the group, would also be technically available. Pettersson also skated today after suffering an injury that took him out of Thursday’s contest.
While Crosby is obviously the most important player for the Penguins, Dumoulin’s return shouldn’t be overlooked. The 30-year-old defenseman is a key part of the team’s defensive structure and logs big minutes in difficult situations. In fact, only John Marino among regular defensemen has started a higher percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone or logged more penalty-killing time than Dumoulin.
It’s been a tough stretch for the Penguins over the past four games, reaching at least overtime in each one. They’ve split those matches, but still sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-3-4 record on the year. Crosby meanwhile has only played in a single game, returning to the lineup just briefly before finding himself in the COVID protocol. Getting him back into game action may have to be a slow process, but it’s hard to wait around long for a player of his caliber. In 2020-21, for the 16th season in a row, Crosby scored at a rate higher than a point-per-game, racking up 62 in 55 games. He’ll try to turn that trick for a 17th time this season.