Crosby absorbs some bumps; full contact next, but when?
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Sidney Crosby does not know when he will get medical clearance to have contact in practice, but he likely already has begun that process.
"I've gotten bumped kind of accidentally here a couple of times anyway, and it's been OK," the Penguins captain said Tuesday. "So we've just got to see how it goes."
Crosby, who has not played since Jan. 5 because of a concussion, skated for the fourth time in as many days since the Penguins got on the ice for training camp. He is skating hard and has not been shy about going into high-traffic areas such as the crease, the corners and behind the net. There has been some jostling, although he stops short or peels away when it seems hitting is imminent.
The team and Crosby's medical crew are taking a conservative approach to the final steps of his comeback. Barring any setbacks, he will need to continue to practice at a high pace with no concussion symptoms, then get through practices and scrimmages that include contact with no problems before he is cleared to play.
How contact, likely light at first, will be introduced remains to be seen.
"I really don't know how that goes," Crosby said.
Perhaps it will be in a controlled, one-on-one setting. That task might fall to strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
"Maybe not Kadar," Crosby said, laughing. "Maybe somebody else. He's pretty aggressive out there, so I might need somebody that tones it down a bit. Not [Kadar], I don't think."
How about winger Steve Sullivan, a smart, veteran player and the smallest on the team at 5 feet 8, 161 pounds.
Crosby has other ideas.
"Probably the biggest guy," he said.
That would be Steve MacIntyre, an enforcer who is 6 feet 5, 250 pounds and was signed in the offseason to protect, rather than hit, Crosby, who is 5-11, 200.
"It would be nice if [MacIntyre] got a hold of me with a good one, and then we'll see how we do," Crosby said.
MacIntyre is not on board.
"I don't want to be that guy," he said. "I'll pass that on to the next guy.
"Besides, chances are, I might lose that battle. He's pretty good. I was trying to get out of his way the other day and he knocked me over."
Crosby is difficult to knock off of the puck, and he said despite having to play catch-up, his conditioning is close to that of his teammates.
It is not known if he might be cleared to play by Oct. 6, when the Penguins open the season at Vancouver, but, whenever he returns, Crosby is not promising he will immediately play at the level that had him leading the NHL with 66 points in 41 games when he got hurt.
"I'd love to be able to say the first game I play I'm right back where I left off, but it's probably pretty unrealistic," Crosby said.
"That's probably the best I've felt since I've played in the NHL, and that's where I want to get to. How long that will take, I don't know. But I'm going to do my best to get back there as soon as I can."
First, when the time comes, he will have to find someone to put a body check on him.
First Published September 21, 2011 12:00 am