SUNRISE, Fla. -- When the Pittsburgh Penguins stepped onto the ice at the BankAtlantic Center for their morning skate Friday, every player was wearing a "C" on his jersey.
The one exception was Russian center Evgeni Malkin, who was wearing a "K."
About 30 minutes later, toward the end of the session, the imposters were joined by their real captain -- the player everyone was anxious to see.
Sidney Crosby returned to the ice Friday, skating with his teammates for the first time since Dec. 7. As Crosby stepped onto the ice, one of his teammate said, "There he is."
"It was a nice gesture," Crosby said of the sea of C's. "At a time like this, when times are tough, we need to stick together. That was a good sign out there."
"It was a nice gesture. At a time like this, when times are tough, we need to stick together. That was a good sign out there." -- Crosby said of the sea of C's
Crosby chatted briefly with coach Dan Bylsma at center ice before taking some passes from conditioning coach Mike Kadar and then taking some shots at an empty net and doing more individual work.
Crosby stayed on the ice after his teammates left, joining center Joe Vitale, a couple of assistant coaches and goalie Brent Johnson. Crosby was on the ice for a total of about 25 minutes before he skated off.
"It's nice to get out there," Crosby said. "There's some restraints, but it's better than being on a bike."
Crosby also is expected to skate Sunday, prior to the Penguins' game at Tampa Bay, but Bylsma said earlier this week there's no timetable for Crosby's return to the lineup.
Florida coach Kevin Dineen said Thursday he was "excited" about Crosby skating, but would prefer to see him in the lineup for Friday's game.
"For me, I think about our fan base," Dineen said. "As a fan myself, you want to see the top players. At the end of the day, you say it's an advantage strategically (not facing Crosby), but for the good of the game and for the good of our fans, I'd like to see him play.
SOG: 31 | +/-: 7
Crosby joined his teammates for their current road trip Wednesday afternoon in Washington, hours before they faced the Capitals. It's the first time Crosby has been on the road since early December.
"The fact I was able to skate is good," Crosby said. "I always want to be around. It's good for me to be around the guys. Hopefully I can support them and they can see I'm getting closer and closer."
With Crosby out of the lineup, the Penguins have lost six in a row to fall out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings. The Penguins have scored only six goals during their losing streak, including Wednesday's 1-0 loss in Washington.
Along with Crosby, the Pens also have been without defenseman Kris Letang (concussion symptoms) and center Jordan Staal (knee).
Crosby sat out the final 41 games of last season and the first 20 games this season with concussion symptoms before coming back in a spectacular and celebrated fashion with a four-point effort against the New York Islanders on Nov. 21. He put up 12 points in eight games, but started experiencing symptoms again after playing against Boston on Dec. 5.
Until Wednesday, there had been little news from the Penguins about their captain, other than Bylsma saying two weeks ago that Crosby still was suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
Bylsma said Wednesday that Crosby has been doing light exercises in the weight room and has been riding a stationary bike.