Sidney Crosby is staying on the ice longer these days. So long that Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sometimes doesn't have time to watch it all.
Asked how the rehabilitating Crosby did during an early morning, 45-minute session Sunday at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said, "I was on the ice. I left before he got finished. So he tired me out."
Sounds like the old days with Crosby, whose on-ice work ethic has long been part of Penguins' lore. It also appears as if Crosby might be getting closer to rejoining his teammates for practice after missing nearly half the season with a concussion.
That, of course, would be the precursor to Crosby returning for games.
Still, the Penguins maintain a cautious-as-we-go approach, setting no formal timetable or deadline for their captain to resume a career in which he was the NHL's dominant player for the first half of the season.
Crosby, with 66 points in 41 games, ranked No. 19 in NHL scoring going into Sunday's games -- despite not playing since Jan. 5.
Crosby didn't talk following a practice with teammates Mark Letestu and Eric Tangradi that began at 8 AM ET, about five hours before the Penguins played the Florida Panthers. Before that game, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was introduced to the sellout crowd as the Penguins' most valuable player for 2010-11 -- an award Crosby almost certainly would have won if he hadn't been injured.
"Sid's been around a lot for three weeks, four weeks, being a part of it," Bylsma said. "He's in every day, talking to our players. He has been with our team for a while now. Again, there's been no expectations talked about, there's been no timetable talked about, when it's possible for him to even return with the team."
Still, with Crosby doing so much more than he could do when he first stepped on the ice two weeks ago, it's becoming difficult for Penguins fans not to be enthusiastic about possibly seeing No. 87 again.
On Friday, the Penguins' website featured video in which Crosby exploded a water bottle atop the net on a backhander that No. 3 goalie Brad Thiessen couldn't handle.
Looks like the old Sid, too.
"I was pretty impressed by the video," Bylsma said.
However, Bylsma won't begin to estimate when Crosby will rejoin practice.
"That conversation has not been broached, and I don't have expectations for it right now," Bylsma said. "Obviously, I'm encouraged to watch him on the ice and watch him skate, go through the paces that he's going through. Those are encouraging signs to see him to be able to do that."
The Penguins have a scheduled off day from practice Monday before meeting Philadelphia at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday. After that, they have five regular-season games remaining before the playoffs begin; the Penguins officially clinched a berth when Carolina lost to Tampa Bay 4-2 Saturday.