UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Penguins still don't know when their first-round playoff series will start.
They certainly don't know for sure what their Game 1 lineup will look like, either.
Even so, it's becoming increasingly likely that injured center Sidney Crosby won't be in it.
Crosby, who hasn't played since Jan. 5 because of a concussion, has been participating in game-day skates with his teammates -- including one Friday at Nassau Coliseum before the Penguins faced the New York Islanders -- for more than a week but hasn't been cleared for contract.
With Game 1 of the opening round set for Wednesday or Thursday and Crosby still having two unspecified stages of rehabilitation to complete, there's growing reason to believe the postseason will begin before he gets the medical clearances needed to play.
"We've said it before and continue to say, he has a couple more steps to go in his rehabilitation before he can even think about returning to play," coach Dan Bylsma said Friday. "I don't know how fast that's going to happen. I don't know if it's going to happen.
"There's no way to even make a timetable and considering that he has two more steps to go through, it would seem like anything in the immediate future is out of the question."
Crosby went on the ice with his teammates for their game-day skate and stayed on for some extra work. It is not known whether he will participate in the practice scheduled for this afternoon at a rink in suburban Atlanta, assuming it isn't called off.
That decision on whether to have him take part might hinge on whether there are contact drills scheduled and what the medical team that is dictating Crosby's approach to his rehabilitation thinks about where his recovery stands.
"He gets his daily activity [guidelines] and progression from somewhere else, not us," Bylsma said.
There was no shortage of nastiness during the previous visit to Long Island, a 9-3 New York victory that produced 346 penalty minutes Feb. 11.
The most vicious incident of the game, though, came when Islanders tough guy Trevor Gillies drove an elbow into the side of left winger Eric Tangradi's head, causing a concussion that forced Tangradi to miss 16 games and earning Gillies a nine-game suspension.
And while it's pretty standard for NHL players to reach out to players they have injured -- you might recall that Matt Cooke sent a text message to New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh after delivering a wicked blow to his head last month -- Gillies never got around to contacting Tangradi.
Not to say he was sorry. Not to wish Tangradi well. Heck, not even to say he hoped the damage he caused would be permanent and that with luck, Tangradi's career would be over.
"I don't really know what the protocol is for something like that," Tangradi said Friday. "But I definitely wasn't sitting there, expecting anything. And I don't think I'd feel any different about the situation [if Gillies had contacted him]. It is what it is."
Both of the goalies involved in a celebrated fight at Consol Energy Center Feb. 2-- Brent Johnson, who threw the lone punch in that battle, and Rick DiPietro, whose face was broken by it -- were left out of the starting lineups Friday.
In Johnson's case, that presumably was because the Penguins had so much at stake, and sticking with their go-to goalie was the logical move.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano, meanwhile, said he didn't opt to start Al Montoya instead of DiPietro because of what happened to DiPietro in the fight with Johnson or any of the fallout from that incident.
"Nothing was based on [that]," he said.
The Islanders attracted capacity crowds to each of their final three home games, the first time they've sold out three consecutive games since March 8- April 5, 2003. ... Penguins winger Nick Johnson, out with a concussion since late February, participated in the game-day skate, his first workout with the team since he was hurt. ... Capuano, on what he knows about defenseman Jamie Doornbosch, who signed an amateur tryout contract with New York: "I know his name is Jamie, and I shook his hand this morning on the ice."
Dave Molinari: email@example.com . First Published April 9, 2011 4:00 AM