PITTSBURGH - What it week it was for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their captain. Sidney Crosby played for the first time since Jan. 5, when a concussion forced him out of the lineup.
Here's how things developed:
Sunday: The Penguins returned home in the early morning hours from an 0-2 Florida swing that was the annual dads' trip.
TV analyst Bob Errey, making small talk with Sidney Crosby's father Troy, asks him if he's heading home to Canada after the flight arrives in Pittsburgh.
Troy Crosby tells Errey he's thinks he's going to stick around for one more game.
Soon everyone knows why.
At 3:01 p.m., the Penguins e-mail a media advisory announcing Crosby will return to the lineup for Monday's home game against the New York Islanders.
The Penguins also set up a conference call with coach Dan Bylsma.
He answers questions about whether Crosby will wear any special protective equipment (no), who his linemates will be (Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis) and how much he expects Crosby to play (not sure, but it won't be 20 minutes like it was before his injury).
The Penguins announce that Crosby's first media availability will be after Monday's 10:30 morning skate.
Monday: Last spring, defenseman Ben Lovejoy was talking about how the players didn't know much more about Crosby's possible return than reporters did.
"One day we're going to walk in here and find out he's playing," Lovejoy said. "And it's going to be like Christmas morning."
So Christmas comes on Nov. 21 this year. Like a lot of holiday celebrations, it's a frenzy with a lot of confusion.
Because Crosby likes to stick to routines (and is very superstitious), he opts to skip the media room and take questions at his dressing stall.
This isn't a good development for James Neal, who has the space next to Crosby on the communal bench that wraps around the dressing room.
Neal flees, and Crosby takes on two separate waves of reporters, some of whom are getting shots of Crosby obscured by the heads of other reporters.
The Penguins calculate they've issued more than 200 credentials for the game, about four times more than the usual regular season game.
Versus is on hand to broadcast the game, dropping the previously-scheduled Boston at Montreal game.
A Monday night date with the Islanders is suddenly a hot ticket, with people prowling the streets outside the building looking for a way to get in.
Those who see it will long remember it. Crosby scores a goal on his third shift, 5:24 into the game.
He finishes with two goals and two assists in 15:54. He could have had two more assists, but Kunitz hit a goalpost after taking a Crosby pass, and Evgeni Malkin clanged a shot off the crossbar.
After missing 320 days and 61 games, Crosby is back.
"It was exciting, I was anxious, a lot of different things going through my mind," Crosby said. "The main thing was the joy of playing. That was something I missed the last 10 months."
Crosby was greeted with a roaring standing ovation, and most of the fans were waving "Welcome Back Sid" placards that were handed out at co-owner Mario Lemieux's suggestion.
"The atmosphere was awesome," Crosby said. "It was amazing. That was far beyond what I expected. It was an unbelievable ovation. It's a special thing that I'll always remember, that's for sure."
Tuesday: The reviews are in. The hockey world is again amazed by Crosby. But the United States television audience yawns.
The Root Sports coverage in Pittsburgh draws a huge audience, about 440,000 viewers. Nationally, fewer than 200,000 tuned into Versus. Worth noting: That rating excluded Pittsburgh and New York, where local coverage supplanted Versus.
Still, the number is bad. WWE's Monday night programming on cable usually gets around 4 million viewers.
Wednesday: No placards, no networks, no Penguins' effort for two periods against the St. Louis Blues.
The Penguins lose 3-2 in overtime, salvaging a point with a strong third period after a 40-minute sleepwalk.
"We didn't deserve that one," Crosby said.
He was blanked on the score sheet and assessed three penalties. He was also bumped heavily by the Blues, whose David Backes misses with a punch aimed at Crosby's head.
It has taken just two games for Crosby to take issue with NHL officiating.
"If those were three infractions, then there were definitely a handful on their side, too," he said. "I'm fine with calling it tight, as long as it's tight both ways. I don't know if that was the case tonight."
Thursday: If anything good came from the Blues game, it's that Crosby reports he feels fine after taking some contact.
Friday: Crosby and the Penguins are back in form. After falling behind 1-0 less than two minutes into the game against Ottawa, the Penguins respond in 27 seconds, kicking off a run of four goals in 7:25.
Crosby's pass after a faked shot sets up Kunitz for an easy goal.
Crosby assists on three of the four and has seven points in three games.
"Speed is our game and we got to it throughout the three periods tonight," he said.
The Penguins board a charter flight for Montreal after the game.
They announce they will skip the morning skate, which means that Crosby's first availability won't be until after the game.
That figures to be a mob scene, as Crosby plays his first game in Canada since the comeback.
Things figure to be just as busy on Tuesday, when the Penguins visit New York to meet the Rangers.