CANONSBURG, Pa. -- For the first time since he was cleared for full-contact practice last month, Sidney Crosby isn't ruling himself out of a Pittsburgh Penguins game.
He also isn't penciling himself in for Friday’s home game against Dallas, saying that his status remains day to day as he mends from the concussion that has sidelined him for 10 months.
Only it appears the day of his return is growing closer.
Crosby went shoulder-to-shoulder and skated stride for stride with his teammates during an off-day practice Monday here at the Iceoplex at Southpointe rink, but said nothing has changed concerning his return.
Except that -- and this was a change -- he acknowledged there was a chance he could play this week.
"That's a possibility," Crosby said of the Stars game. "Just like however many games left there are (also are a possibility). … Everyone else's guesses are as good as mine."
Last week, by contrast, he said there was no chance he would play in games at San Jose and Los Angeles.
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Crosby's unscheduled trip back to Pittsburgh created speculation that he was targeting Friday's game as his return date. But Crosby and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma insisted Monday there was nothing to read into the timing of the evaluation.
"We are not waiting for an epiphany to make a decision," Bylsma said. "He's progressing. He's going down that road. I'll reiterate to you again, there is not a timetable or a date right now that we know and you don't. He's continuing to practice with the team. He got back out there (on the ice) after the weekend, and he'll to continue to practice with the team this week."
Crosby also said there was nothing unusual about the timing of his medical visit except that he wanted his schedule clear for team-building exercises Monday and Tuesday. The Penguins participated in military-type exercises during past seasons, but Bylsma hinted that these would be a little different and would involve wives and girlfriends.
"We're going to be busy," Crosby said. "There's no use staying out there (in Los Angeles) for a morning skate when I can get an appointment and get some good days in here."
As for what occurs during his evaluations, Crosby said, "I just tell them how I feel. That's usually how it goes, giving feedback and letting them know how I'm feeling. They usually have tests or ways of evaluating. It's kind of a combination of what I'm telling them and their expert opinion."
Despite Crosby's limited contact to date during practice, Bylsma said he is intentionally trying to match Crosby against "people that will be inclined to bump him." However, one of them was expected to be defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who is mending from a broken wrist that will keep him out about six weeks.
Crosby last played Jan. 5, when he received a second hard hit in as many games. At the time, he led all NHL players with 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games. He resumed skating with his teammates in late March, but had a setback a few weeks later and never was close to returning to game action last season.
He hasn't missed any practices due to the concussion since training camp began in mid-September, and was cleared for contact during practice Oct. 13. He has had no concussion-related symptoms for more than two months, and Crosby continues to do everything except play as he patiently awaits medical clearance to resume his exceptional career.
"I'm just going to get a good week of practice here, that's for sure, and see how everything goes," Crosby said.