PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby remains hopeful of returning this season, although he still is experiencing concussion-like symptoms that vary from day to day.
For only the second time since he last practiced Dec. 7, Crosby skated with the Penguins on Friday at their suburban Iceoplex at Southpointe rink. Crosby did so because he couldn't find available ice time elsewhere.
All of the drills were contact-free -- Crosby has not yet been cleared to practice fully or to experience contact -- but they gave Crosby an idea of where he is at in his recovery.
"I'm trying to get back," the 24-year-old Crosby said. "I'm hoping to get back as soon as possible. I'm not going to pretend I know when that is. I won't say I'll be ready in a month or two weeks or a week. I wouldn't be going through of all of this if I didn't want to play as soon as possible. That's all I'm worried about."
"I feel like I'm getting better, which is good. I'm still not symptom-free. I'm progressing, but I'm not ready to take a hit yet." -- Sidney Crosby
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero said last month that, just like earlier this season, Crosby won't be allowed to play until he is symptom-free and has proven he can handle contact during practice.
"That's a decision that's up to management," Crosby said.
Crosby has been sidelined since his brief return in November and December by symptoms like those that sidelined him for the final half of the 2010-11 season. Crosby did say, thought, "The headaches are a little more tolerable now than they were before."
"Since they are, I've been able to skate," said Crosby, who has taken the ice almost daily for weeks. "If that wasn't the case then I wouldn't be skating right now. That's a good thing."
Crosby also skated with the Penguins in Montreal last week because he had no other player to work with. According to coach Dan Bylsma, Crosby pushes the pace and skates hard and fast some days, while other days he powers down a bit.
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Crosby was symptom-free for weeks before returning against the Islanders on Nov. 21, scoring two goals and totaling four points during a memorable return.
That was his first game since the middle of last season, and he played seven more until the concussion-like problems resurfaced following a physical game against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 5.
Crosby learned late last month after consulting with several outside specialists that he has a soft-tissue injury in his neck in addition to the concussion-related problems. The Penguins were hopeful then that the neck injury diagnosis might be a breakthrough that would signal a quicker recovery for Crosby, but so far the symptoms have persisted.
"I feel like I'm getting better, which is good," Crosby said in his most expansive comments about his condition since a Jan. 31 news conference. "I'm still not symptom-free. I'm progressing, but I'm not ready to take a hit yet."
Crosby was diagnosed last year with a vestibular concussion, which affects a person's balance and ability to move freely. While those issues currently aren't as severe as they were at this time last year, the headaches persist.
"Daily," Crosby said when asked when he experiences the symptoms. "You have days when you feel like you're getting better and the symptoms aren't quite as bad. Other days they're a little worse. Everyone has different symptoms. That's the tough thing about getting a gauge on it. It doesn't always seem consistent. It doesn't consistently get worse or better. It's a roller coaster. They're not fun, but I feel like I'm getting better."