Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is closer to returning, joining the team’s optional skate

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PITTSBURGH – Penguin captain Sidney Crosby took part in an optional skate Tuesday morning and is about to return after undergoing left wrist surgery in early September.

Crosby skated first in an individual training session and then joined his teammates for the morning skate for the second time in four days.

The team announced at the time of the procedure that Crosby would miss a minimum of six weeks, but that mark passed last week.

The triple Stanley Cup winner has handled pain in the wrist off and on the side shortly after the 2014 Olympics. He originally hoped that resting out of season would give it time to heal properly, a strategy that worked for him in previous summers . But as the training camp for the season approached with symptoms still persistent, he chose to undergo surgery in hopes of solving the problem forever.

The Penguins have been a surprise in the early season without their captain, not to mention striker Evgeni Malkin. Despite their 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night, Pittsburgh is 3-1-2 by eight points.

But optimism is high for Crosby’s return, and coach Mike Sullivan even joked on Tuesday that he is confident the veteran striker will get his place in the ranks back when he is finally approved by doctors.

As for Tuesday’s match, the Penguins seemed sluggish and the Stanley Cup champions made them pay. Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh scored 10 seconds apart in the second period, and Lightning picked up their first regulatory win of the season.

One night after a loss to Buffalo that included giving after three goals in the third period, Tampa Bay had its most complete performance of the young season.

The Penguins take on the Calgary Flames at home on Thursday.

“We have a lot of internal competition because the players play well,” Sullivan said of the team’s chemistry without Crosby. “We play collectively as a group and our structure is good.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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