Crosby awaits chance to be hit more often

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Penguins center Sidney Crosby still considers himself close to returning after his long comeback from a concussion, but that does not mean he will play in the next game or two.

"Nothing's really changed," Crosby said Saturday after participating in the team's morning skate at Consol Energy Center.

When the Penguins played New Jersey, he missed his 51st game in a row, not counting the Penguins loss in seven games to Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

One thing that has to change is the amount of contact he is getting in practice. He got cleared for full contact 10 days ago, but the team's hectic schedule has not allowed for much heavy hitting.

"I need to get in some contact, more than just one bump in a morning skate," Crosby said. "It's got to be a few days of that. Whenever we can get some of those days together -- and, hopefully, I'll respond well to that -- then I'll be much closer than I am right now."

The next time the Penguins' schedule opens for days of training-camp style practices with hitting is after an Oct. 29 game at Toronto. They have four days off between games then and five successive days with no games the following week.

When Crosby and his medical team believe he is ready, he will not worry about factors such as whether the next opponent is a particularly physical team or whether it is a home or road game.

"It's been a long time, so I'm just looking forward to it whenever that is," he said.

Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion Jan. 6.

Sykora returns to NHL

Petr Sykora has won two Stanley Cups, one with New Jersey and one with the Penguins. He famously predicted and then scored the winning goal in triple-overtime of the Penguins' Game 5 win at Detroit in the 2008 final, eventually won by the Red Wings.

He has scored more than 300 goals, and his 1,000th NHL game is within sight -- but only because he was willing to accept an invitation to attend the Devils' training camp on a tryout basis.

"I didn't have a choice," said Sykora, who, after winning the Cup in 2009 with the Penguins, signed with Minnesota, only to have most of the 2009-10 season wiped out by a concussion. He played overseas last season.

Sykora, 34, had a strong preseason and signed a one-year, $650,000 contract with New Jersey. He had two assists in five games going into the game against the Penguins, his first at Consol Energy Center.

"In the preseason, things went well. I was scoring some goals," Sykora said. "I've been struggling now to score goals, but I'm working on that every day."

Sykora has been used not only at his natural right-wing position but also at center and lately on a top line because of injuries.

"I'll play anywhere," he said. "The game is so fast. I'm just doing what I can."

Reaching milestones

Penguins winger Steve Sullivan played in his 900th NHL game Saturday.

That is just one in a series of milestones for the Penguins, mostly in terms of games played.

Consider:

Defenseman Matt Niskanen played his 300th game Oct. 13; winger Chris Kunitz picked up his 100th point as a Penguin Oct. 13; winger Arron Asham played in his 700th game Thursday; center Jordan Staal entered the Devils game two goals shy of 100 in his career; coach Dan Bylsma is expected to coach his 200th game Tuesday against the New York Islanders on Long Island; and defenseman Zbynek Michalek is two games shy of 500.

Tip-ins

Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy (concussion) still has symptoms and is not available for team activities. ... Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said rookie defenseman Brian Strait, who has a hyperextended left elbow, will go through rehabilitation for four to six weeks before any further determination on treatment is made.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly .


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