Vibes on NHL talks all negative

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The prognosis, Sidney Crosby acknowledged Tuesday, is pretty bleak.

There simply isn't much reason to be optimistic.

That might sound alarmingly familiar, but, this time, the dark outlook has nothing to do with him.

Not directly, anyway.

If there are any severe headaches or queasiness now, they belong to the guys trying -- with very little success -- to work out a new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and its players.

One that would allow training camps to open, as scheduled, Sept. 21. Or, at the very least, for games to begin on time, Oct. 11.

Will either happen? Doesn't seem terribly likely, at least at the moment.

But, if either does, Crosby looks prepared to be fully involved, right from the first drill. Or shift.

He joined 14 teammates for an informal workout at the Penguins practice facility at Southpointe Tuesday and looked decidedly sharp, especially with the puck, for this time of year.

Which reflects how Crosby was able to go through a full offseason training regimen, something that was unthinkable a year ago.

And he was able to do it without experiencing any setbacks related to the concussion and neck injury that forced him to sit out 101 regular-season games between the first week of 2011 and March 15, 2012.

"It's been really good," Crosby said. "Nothing [has gone wrong]. I've been feeling 100 percent. It feels good to not have to think about that and to work as hard as you want. It's been really good."

Crosby's energy on the ice and broad smile off it testified to his eagerness to participate in games, but that won't happen until the league and NHL Players' Association forge a CBA to replace the one set to expire Saturday night.

With little time before the CBA runs out, the chances of a resolution by Saturday aren't good.

Crosby and about a dozen teammates will find out just how dire the NHLPA believes the situation to be when they travel to New York in early afternoon for meetings tonight and Thursday.

"I think it's going to be educational," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "It's going to be rallying the troops. We haven't met as a whole yet. We've had a lot of conference calls, and I think this is just a way for all of us to get together and really be on the same page."

Management will try to do the same when the league's Board of Governors convenes Thursday, giving commissioner Gary Bettman an opportunity to brief team executives and owners on the talks.

At this point, neither Bettman nor NHLPA head Don Fehr figures to deliver a particularly upbeat assessment. The league and NHLPA still haven't agreed on how to define hockey-related revenue, let alone a satisfactory formula for splitting it.

"It doesn't look great right now, unless things change here in the next couple of days," Crosby said.

Uncertainty over when camps will open is an unwelcome wrinkle for Crosby, who, like many players, tries to bring his summer workouts to a crescendo when the preseason is about to start.

"You always try to peak when training camp starts, so not knowing [when that will be] ... you still have to be ready," he said. "The fact is, everyone has to deal with the same thing."

Crosby entered the league in 2005, months after the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season ended.

More than a few NHL players took temporary jobs in Europe that winter, and a number, including Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, already have lined up work there if the NHL imposes a lockout.

Crosby confirmed he will consider going across the Atlantic Ocean at some point if a lockout would drag on, but said he has no timetable for deciding whether to do so.

"With not knowing how long it's going to be, you don't want to make any quick decisions," he said. "My plan would be just to kind of wait and see how things are going and try to get more of a feel for the direction we're heading in and the time frame.

"It's definitely tough, thinking about not playing, considering how much time I've missed."

What won't be difficult, he said, is maintaining the close ties he has to Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux, even though they would be on opposite sides of a lockout.

"It's not a personal thing," Crosby said. "I think we both understand the business side of things, and respect that. I don't feel that way at all and I don't expect that he does, either.

"At the end of the day, we have to do what's best for our sides."

NOTE -- In addition to Crosby, center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Deryk Engelland took part in the Southpointe workout for the first time.

penguins

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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