Crosby went through the Pittsburgh Penguins' morning skate Friday, and then said he still isn't sure whether he will return from a three-month injury layoff to play Sunday against the Boston Bruins (12:30 p.m., NBC, TSN).
When he was cleared for contact Tuesday, Crosby said the earliest he could return would be against the Bruins. He hasn't played since an especially physical game against Boston on Dec. 5 triggered a recurrence of the concussion-like symptoms that kept him out of Pittsburgh's first 20 games.
Crosby suggested he might not have had enough contact in practice to return so soon, but that he will know Saturday whether he can play the next day.
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He added, "(You've got to) make sure you test yourself, and I'm going to try my best to do that. I did it today, we'll see tomorrow and we'll kind of go from there."
The Penguins didn't practice Thursday amid a stretch in which they play four home games in a seven-day span, but Crosby worked with forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi, who bumped and shoved him during faceoff drills and puck-possession drills in the corners.
"Just the way the schedule's worked out, I probably haven't tested things as best as I would like, but even after the minimal bumping I've done it's been good," Crosby said. "No setbacks, so that's been good."
The key to his recovery, Crosby said, is remaining symptom-free for the remainder of a day in which he has exerted himself on the ice.
"(You) just kind of see how the day goes, and everything's been good but, like I said, I don't feel like I've tested it a ton," Crosby said. "That (his return date) will be something we talk about, and figure out, and see what makes sense. But before all those conversations, you've got to make sure you get through it -- that's No. 1."
During his layoff, Crosby consulted with several out-of-town doctors and specialists, and their testing revealed a soft-tissue injury in his neck that may have contributed to the concussion-like symptoms. Since that discovery, Crosby has discerned significant progress during his recovery.
Now, he said, he must make sure he doesn't come back too soon.
If he doesn't play Sunday, he is expected to get some on-ice time Monday during a day off for the rest of the team -- perhaps like he did Thursday -- before the Penguins hold full practices Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of their game Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Penguins then play the Devils on Saturday, March 17, and the Flyers on Sunday, March 18.
Waiting until next week would give him, at the minimum, three full practices with contact before he plays.
Crosby went through about a month's worth of contact before coming back from a nearly 11-month layoff that resulted from his January 2011 concussion. He scored twice and had two assists during his Nov. 21 comeback game against the Islanders, but he didn't score any more goals in seven subsequent games before his concussion-like symptoms returned.
Now, Crosby is hoping to tighten up the timetable by getting more contact in a shorter period of time.
Center - PIT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 12
SOG: 31 | +/-: 7
SOG: 31 | +/-: 7
"The last time was more to do with symptoms and I'd been symptom-free," Crosby said. "The last few days have been good, being symptom-free, but it's more the amount of contact and the extent of it, not the duration. Maybe I was doing contact a little bit longer (then), but it wasn't really as intense as I'm trying to look for at this point. I guess that would be the difference."
The Penguins can't wait to see what difference Crosby makes on a team that couldn't be playing much better without him. With Evgeni Malkin pushing for a second NHL scoring title, the Penguins took a seven-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Florida Panthers.
Since ending a six-game losing streak by beating Florida 4-1 on Jan. 13, the Penguins are 19-4-1.
Now, they appear ready to welcome back their biggest star. Crosby had 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games and was on pace for the NHL's best season offensively since Mario Lemieux's 161-point season in 1995-96 before he was hurt 15 months ago.
"But you have to make sure you're as tested as you can be … there's no need in rushing anything," Crosby said. "(You've got to) make sure you're ready and, like I said, I don't want to go through this one more time."