There's progess, but still no timetable for Penguins' Crosby
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There is progress.
There is hope.
But there still is no target date.
And there certainly are no guarantees.
Sidney Crosby, who hasn't played since Jan. 5 because of a concussion, is scheduled to take another significant step in his recovery today, when he goes on the ice with his teammates for their game-day skate at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
But it is no more than that -- one step on a journey that is nowhere near complete.
One which, as general manager Ray Shero stressed Wednesday, might not end until training camp in the fall.
For while Shero did not rule out the possibility of Crosby returning at some point during the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin in about two weeks, he did effectively snuff any thoughts that Crosby could be back in the lineup before the regular season ends April 10 in Atlanta.
"As a manager, I have no expectation that he's coming back to play in the regular season," Shero said. "I don't believe that's going to happen.
"In terms of playing in the playoffs for us, that's still two or three weeks away. I don't want to take any hope away from the players, but to return to game action for the Stanley Cup playoffs takes a certain level of fitness and game-(readiness), and he is certainly not close to that at this point."
Coach Dan Bylsma reinforced that sentiment, saying that potential return dates for Crosby have not come up in the conversation.
"Ray and I have not had discussions about [Crosby returning for] 'start of the playoffs, first round, second round,' " he said. "There are no discussions on those fronts.
"We have no anticipation for when the next step is, and where that might be, down the road. If at all, this year."
Although Crosby has clearance to go on the ice for game-day skates -- in addition to the one this morning, there will be one Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. -- he is not allowed to participate in off-day practices.
"We don't anticipate him practicing with us all the time," Shero said.
Being involved in game-day skates will allow Crosby to test whether things like the movement of players around him and the demands that places on his vision, will cause concussion-related symptoms, such as headaches or dizziness.
"It's another step in the progression for him, to introduce him on the ice with 20 other players," Shero said.
If Crosby gets through those skates, in which there is no contact, without a problem, the next step would be for him to take part in conventional practices.
Crosby accompanied the team on its flight Tuesday to Florida, the first time he has traveled with his teammates since late Jan. 5, when the Penguins flew to Montreal after a home game against Tampa Bay.
Crosby returned to Pittsburgh on a private flight the next day, however, and was diagnosed with a concussion before nightfall.
He did not skate or speak with reporters Wednesday, although he is expected to do both today.
Their vested interest in Crosby's well-being aside, Shero and Bylsma -- and everyone else in the front office -- have little, if any, direct involvement in his recovery. Dr. Charles Burke, the Penguins' team physician, and concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins deal with Crosby on a regular basis and are the ones who decide on his regimen.
"The last thing we're going to do with any player ... is push him if they're not ready for that," Shero said. "This is doctor's orders ... and I think we're comfortable with that. I know [Crosby] is very comfortable with it."
Shero also said he is confident Crosby will not make the mistake of overstating his progress in order to get approval to resume playing sooner than would be prudent.
"This is an injury that's so symptom-based, and he knows his symptoms," he said. "He'll know when he needs to pull back a little bit."
The Penguins are 19-12-5 since Crosby left the lineup and, even though he has missed the past 36 games, he continues to lead them in goals (32) and points (66).
First Published March 31, 2011 12:00 am