Crosby's situation simpler than it appears
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The Penguins were fresh off one of their most satisfying victories in recent memory, and coach Dan Bylsma stepped to the lectern Thursday morning at Consol Energy Center to field questions.
Would it be about James Neal's double-overtime goal?
Or possible lineup changes?
No, it remained the same as most days: Any change with Sidney Crosby?
Bylsma opened his answer with the oft-repeated, "There is no timetable," then expounded a bit more than usual.
"If you were under the impression that he was moving closer ... he's got to pass the next stage of what he can do," Bylsma said. "That has not happened yet. Again, that's his contact with the doctors and what's prescribed for on- and off-ice activities. Some days, those are on the ice. Sometimes, they're off. Sometimes, it's both."
Crosby, out with a concussion since the first week of January, has been practicing with the Penguins for most of the past three weeks, although he is not permitted contact. He stayed off the ice this past Friday and Saturday, then again Thursday after the team returned from Tampa.
That level of activity -- as well as all kinds of video footage of Crosby looking dazzling in drills -- has led to thick speculation that a Crosby return is imminent, but Bylsma's words Thursday made clear anew that this is not the case.
"He continues to keep going," Bylsma said. "We need to see him progress further down the road before any kind of timetable is talked about."
The next step in that progression, as the Penguins have stated often, would be getting cleared for contact in practices.
The speculation has bordered on conspiracy theories in some cases, ranging from Crosby simply hanging around the team as a decoy, to Crosby secretly engaging in full-contact workouts in anticipation of surprising a playoff opponent, to material even Oliver Stone would find laughable.
Here is how those inside the team describe Crosby's current situation:
• His work is prescribed in advance by doctors, and that includes the pattern of when he skates, when he works out off the ice, and when he has a day of rest. None of those, according to the team, is an indication of his status.
• Crosby's aim is to be in shape, so that he would be ready to play as soon as possible in these playoffs after he is fully cleared. He is not preparing for the next training camp, and he certainly is not doing it to be a decoy. The goal is to have his conditioning at the point where he could compete -- safely -- at the highest intensity level of hockey. Regaining full strength in his neck muscles, for example, would lessen the impact of any hit that jars the head. Some will recall that, after the first hit on Crosby by Washington's David Steckel, in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic he spoke of feeling neck pain but no concussion symptoms.
• Anytime word emerges that Crosby is meeting with doctors, a buzz tends to follow in anticipation that the meeting could be pivotal. The reality is that Crosby is in communication with his doctors -- and the athletic trainers -- every day without fail.
In general, the most common answer from the Penguins regarding Crosby's status is a shrug, and that is for a reason: Concussions do not come with predictable timetables, and setbacks are common. Crosby, as has been seen these past four months, is no exception.
None of the Penguins skated Thursday, as Bylsma gave the team a day off and a comedy show was setting up at Consol Energy Center. They will practice this morning at Southpointe.
First Published April 22, 2011 12:00 am