NHL notes: Sidney Crosby could return in time for first round of playoffs

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) is helped off the ice by teammate Pascal Dupuis (9) after...

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) is helped off the ice by teammate Pascal Dupuis (9) after being hit in the face with a puck in the first period of their NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 30, 2013. (REUTERS)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:53 PM ET

Quick, place your bets before the already ridiculously lopsided odds swing further in favour of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Already runaway favourites (3/1) to the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in franchise history, the Penguins could get Sidney Crosby back in time for the start of the playoffs.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Crosby, who's been out since taking a puck to the face on March 30, was given medical clearance Thursday to resume practicing, which he's expected to do Friday, ahead of next week's first round. He had been eating through a straw since a slap shot from teammate Brooks Orpik deflected into his face last month, shattering teeth and breaking the Hart Trophy candidate's jaw.

Crosby will wear a shield to protect his surgically-repaired jaw, according to the Post-Gazette. He'll also need extensive dental work even after potentially receiving clearance.

In Crosby's absence, the Pens have gone 7-3 in April after winning 15 straight prior to Crosby's injury.

The Pens locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference when they knocked off the Boston Bruins last weekend. They'll likely host the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers or New York Islanders when the playoffs begin next week.

BRYZGALOV BUBBLY

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov sounds like he enjoys having Steve Mason around to take some of his work load.

Mason was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline and made it known he wants to become the Flyers' No. 1 goalie. It doesn't seem to bother Bryzgalov, who was happy to get some time off after playing a ton before the deadline.

"At some point during the year I was, like, empty, like an empty tank," Bryzgalov told CSN Philly. "It's a luxury when you have two goalies. A good luxury. You never know what is gonna happen. If you have a second goalie who is good, it's good for the team. It's all about the team."

"During the season, I didn't have much opportunity for rest during the long stretch. I was kind of exhausted. You have luxury of having second goalie who can play great, too, it's wonderful for the team."

Mason has played six games with the Flyers, going 3-2-0 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

SEMIN SIDELINED

Carolina Hurricanes forward Alex Semin will sit out the final two regular-season games due to a concussion,coach Kirk Muller confirmed Thursday.

Muller did not say when or how Semin was hurt. He played more than 23 minutes in a win over the New York Islanders Tuesday but didn't skate Wednesday.

Semin had 12 goals and 31 assists in 44 games with the Hurricanes this season, his first with Carolina after seven years with the Washington Capitals. He signed a five-year, $35 million contract extension last month.

The 'Canes called up Tim Wallace from Charlotte of the AHL to fill the void.

DEVILISH DECISION

New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson, an impending unrestricted free agent, would like to wear the horns again.

But even he doesn't know if that will happen.

"I don't know where I'll be," Clarkson told the Newark-based Star-Ledger Thursday. "I have no idea what will end up happening. There haven't been any negotiations between Mr. (Lou) Lamoriello and my agent. I've had no decisions to make yet. I love playing here. What better situation could there be?

"I have a coach (Pete DeBoer) I've had since I was young who I believe, besides my father, has been the biggest part of my hockey career. And Mr. Lamoriello was the first GM to give me an opportunity."

Clarkson, who has 14 goals and nine assists in 46 games after potting 30 goals last season, would be one of the top free agent forwards if the Devils let him go on the market.

BRIEFLY

St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie should be ready to play before the start of the playoffs, according to coach Ken Hitchcock. Oshie, who had surgery to correct a stress fracture in his ankle earlier this month, will return to practice Friday but it's unclear if he'll play in either of the Blues' final two regular-season games ... Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton, hurt in a fight with Pittsburgh's Jarome Iginla on Saturday, missed his third straight game Thursday but is "progressing well," said coach Claude Julien. Horton has an upper-body injury and his status for the playoffs is unknown ... The Edmonton Oilers sent winger Teemu Hartikainen to Oklahoma City of the AHL and signed goalie Frans Tuohimaa to a two-year, entry-level contract. Tuohimaa has been with Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League the last two seasons.


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