Probably the most relevant news to come out of this weekends festivities at the CONSOL Energy Center was the fact that Sidney Crosby took his on-ice workouts to a new level, practicing harder than he has since his removal from the lineup last January with no symptoms post-workout.

I’m sure we’ve got a ways to go in the process of getting Sidney Crosby back on the ice for the Penguins, but the most frustrating part of Crosby’s absence has been a lack of ability to gauge where he stands overall and what progress, if any, has been made so far.

Again, we find ourselves in a state of cautious optimism. The road to recovery is a long one, particularly with this injury, but certainly progress has been made and it’s just great to watch the best player in the game back on the ice with his teammates. You can watch a post-practice interview with Crosby that includes the ovation he received upon his return to the ice here.

Be sure to stop by to check out @LGP_Netwolf’s camp write-ups. They have been a staple of the Pittsburgh hockey community for several years now. Netwolf made a great point in his review, discussing how loose “no contact” was. Crosby was definitely bumped around a few times through the course of the weekend. Nothing too jarring, but the “no contact” policy isn’t as stringent as one might think.

It would appear that the Penguins are going to roll with the following as their top two lines for this year. Perhaps the best looking of the top lines was Steve Sullvan, Evgeni Malkin, and Tyler Kennedy. There is a great combination of speed, shooting ability, and forechecking presence on that line and each member presents and intriguing presence to the lineup.

For starters, we have Steve Sullivan, the most aged member of the line. Fresh off of a set of surgeries to repair nagging back and groin issues, Sullivan brings a scoring pedigree to the wing that perhaps only James Neal can boast outside the rest of the lineup.

Also, Evgeni Malkin’s return from a serious knee injury is welcomed. Dan Bylsma has been clear in his expectations of Malkin and said this past week that the bar has been set at 100 points for the former Conn Smythe winner. A return to 2009 form for Geno would be welcome at best and a hot start could made the loss of Sidney Crosby a bit easier.

Finally, that line also boasts the most polarizing figure on the Penguins roster right now, Tyler Kennedy. Coming off of a career year that earned him a new contract, the viewpoint on Kennedy’s place on the team, and his expectations, vary from fan to fan. Put me in the category of folks expecting big things from Kennedy this year. He stepped up at a key time, and if he’s going to play with Sullivan and Malkin, the opportunity for continued success certainly presents itself.

Conversely, it appears we’ll see Jordan Staal centering a line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Neal was able to snipe a goal during the scrimmage this weekend and we obviously know the expectation there is for a 20+ goal season. Kunitz played with Staal when he was initially traded from the Ducks, so a bit of familiarity is present in that pairing.

I like what this line brings, as all three components at forward bring some kind of a physical element to the ice. Kunitz has the forecheck ability to open up space down low and we’ll finally get to see a Jordan Staal with a clean bill of health and a proper amount of pre-season training and conditioning.

Again, it’s worth reiterating that both of these lines bring a ton of key elements to the table. You have a physical presence, a shooting presence, and a ton of creativity.

Stay tuned to FF for continued pre-season coverage, as well as our yearly pre-season roundtable.