PITTSBURGH — Cleared to play without a plastic apparatus protecting his lower face for the first time since returning from a broken jaw, Sidney Crosby said he’ll need a few days to adjust.
It appears he’ll get just that.
Crosby wore a traditional helmet with no mouth or jaw protection during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice Sunday. Like his teammates, Crosby figures to have at least a couple more practices before he plays in a game.
The schedule for the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins has yet to be released. The Penguins ultimately will end up with four or more off days after wrapping their series with the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
After playing a compacted schedule during the lockout-shortened regular season in which off days were scarce, the Penguins strive to make the most of their preparation time in advance of their first appearance in the conference finals since 2009.
“You use the rest to your advantage,” Crosby said after practice Sunday. “If we had to start tomorrow, I think we’d be ready and be OK. But in the playoffs you can never have too much rest and preparation before the series starts. So we’ll make the most of it.”
Just twice since the season began Jan. 19 have the Penguins had more than a two-day layoff between games — April 14-16 during the regular season and April 28-30 just prior to the start of the playoffs. Pittsburgh played 11 times in 24 days in winning in the first two postseason rounds.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he “doesn’t have any clue” when the series against the Bruins would start. The NHL traditionally has tended to wait until all of the previous round’s series are complete before announcing the schedule for a subsequent round. While the teams in the Eastern Conference finals are set, both second-round series in the Western Conference are heading into Game 6s Sunday and Monday.