Crosby's decision to come today

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Sidney Crosby expects to end the suspense today about his playing status for the home game Sunday against Boston, but, as of Friday, he wasn't sure what direction his announcement will take.

The Penguins center and captain said he will let it be known a day beforehand when he's ready to return to the lineup and has maintained that the game against the Bruins would be the earliest he would play after missing most of the past 14 months because of a concussion and neck injury.

"It's just one of those things where you're trying to go through [practices] and make sure you test yourself. I'm going to try and do my best to do that," said Crosby, who was cleared Tuesday for contact.

"We'll see [today] and kind of go from there."

Crosby, who hasn't played since Dec. 5, remains symptom-free and said he is as strongly conditioned as possible without playing in games.

"It's been good. No setbacks, which is definitely a good thing," he said.

He has been checking in with his medical team each morning with a report on how he feels after contact the day before.

Crosby came back Nov. 21 after more than 10 months off, but came out of the lineup after just eight games because of reoccurring symptoms.

"You have to make sure that you're as tested as you can be and make sure that there's no need in rushing anything, too, make sure you're ready," he said.

"I only want to go through this [type of comeback] one more time."

About those standings

At the moment, the only way the Penguins can move up in the Eastern Conference playoff standings is to win the Atlantic Division, a spot occupied by the New York Rangers.

While that has looked like a long shot for a while, a seven-game winning streak helped the Penguins close to within six points of the Rangers going into their game Friday night against Florida and the Rangers' date at Chicago. Both the Penguins and Rangers will have 15 games left after Friday.

"I don't think we were focused on that specifically until now [that] they're kind of in reach," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "It's a goal of ours. Our goal the whole season was to win the division. It's still reachable. We just want to keep playing good hockey."

During their winning streak, the Penguins beat the Rangers, 2-0, Feb. 21, and face them twice more, including a game Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

"It's been 10 points," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of the gap.

"We still have our eyes set on them. We know right where they're at. We know how difficult it's going to be. We know we have to win our two games against them for it to be a possibility."

If the Penguins can sweep their final two games against the Rangers in regulation, they still will need to make up some ground. And they will have to hold off Philadelphia and New Jersey, teams that are chasing the Penguins in the Atlantic Division.

They continue to believe.

"It's doable," center Jordan Staal said. "We're going one game at a time, but it's a possibility. We have to do some great things, and, hopefully, we can find a way to do it."

On the medical front

Defenseman Paul Martin missed the game day skate because he was "not feeling well," Bylsma said, and the Penguins summoned rookie Simon Despres from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to take his spot.

Despres, the team's first-round draft pick in 2009, had played in 14 NHL games previously this season, but not since Jan. 10, when he left a game against Ottawa with a knee injury.

In the meantime, defensemen Kris Letang (concussion symptoms) and Deryk Engelland (undisclosed injury) skated before the morning skate.

Goaltender Brent Johnson, who had been skating as he deals with an unspecified injury, did not join the two injured defensemen or the morning skate. Bylsma said Johnson continues to rehab.


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