TAMPA, Fla. -- Penguins winger Arron Asham flanked Sidney Crosby for various drills at the game-day skate Thursday morning at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"He looks good. I'm pretty sure he could lace them up tonight and play and be a force," Asham gushed.
"He's just so much better than everyone else. He can be out for a year and he'd probably come back and still lead the league [in scoring]. He's just that talented."
Although for some -- including Crosby --it might feel as if it has been a year since a concussion knocked the star center out of hockey, it has been a bit shy of three months. And, despite his glowing assessment, Asham, who also had a concussion this season, knew Crosby wouldn't be in the lineup Thursday night against Tampa Bay. He also knew no one can say when Crosby will return.
"It's a matter for me of making sure that I'm healthy. If that takes two months, then it takes two months. If it doesn't, great. I can't really control that," Crosby said after joining his teammates for a game-day skate for the first time since Jan. 5.
Crosby, who was on the ice for about an hour, participated in drills and skated hard. He called it "a lot of fun."
He has not been cleared for a non-game-day practice or contact. General manager Ray Shero said Wednesday he doesn't expect Crosby to play in the regular season. The playoffs begin in less than two weeks.
"I've just got to do the right things to try to feel good and get back to where I need to be," said Crosby, who was leading the NHL -- and still leads his team -- with 66 points in 41 games when he got hurt.
"I'm not looking too far ahead at all. I'm just trying to look at these little opportunities as a good chance to get back with the guys. At the same time, [game-day skates are] a small step, with a lot to go."
Lately, Crosby hasn't had the headaches and other symptoms that plagued him after he took hits to the head in back-to-back games from David Steckel, then of Washington, in the Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic and from Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman four nights later.
"No, it's been good," Crosby said. "It's been really good."
It might never be known exactly how or when Crosby got the concussion, although the popular theory is it stemmed from Steckel's hit, with a delayed onset of symptoms, and was exacerbated by Hedman's hit.
Hedman hit Crosby from behind into the end boards late in the second period of an 8-1 Penguins win and received a minor boarding penalty. Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion a day later.
"It probably didn't help, that's for sure," Crosby said of Hedman's hit, which sent his head into the glass.
Thursday was the first time the teams had met since that Jan. 5 game.
"I don't know if it's the play that I did on him that hurt him and got him out of the game," Hedman said. "You never want a player out for a long time. He's obviously a huge part of that team.
"I didn't know he got hurt. I was kind of mad that I got a penalty, but, when I looked at it afterward, maybe it was a minor penalty. But it was the day after when they started talking about me giving him a concussion."
Hedman, a towering defenseman, said he had not spoken with Crosby.
Crosby began skating with conditioning coach Mike Kadar more than two weeks ago. Returning to practice -- even a scaled-down version with no body contact on game day -- was a step Crosby was happy to make.
"Just the motion -- all the guys out there," he said of the biggest challenge. "It's something you take for granted a lot, but it's something you have to get readjusted to. It puts a little added pressure on your brain a bit when everyone's moving out there and you've got to react to all that. I'm just trying to see how that goes."
If no problems follow the skate, Crosby is expected to do it again Saturday morning before a game against Florida.
"It's usually the same thing with every step -- make sure that you don't get symptoms," he said. "It's not just one day. It's at least a few days, if not more. The main thing is not to look too far ahead, just try to get through each step and hope it goes well."
NOTE -- About 2,000 tickets for each of the Penguins' first two playoff home games -- dates and opponent to be determined -- will go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday at www.ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-745-3000, at the Consol Energy Center box office or at Pittsburgh area Ticketmaster locations. A lottery system will be used for the latter two.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721. First Published April 1, 2011 4:00 AM