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Crosby back on ice for first time since concussion

by Alan Robinson
The headaches are subsiding, and Sidney Crosby said he is regaining a sense of normalcy in his everyday life. For Crosby, there is nothing more normal than being on the ice.

However, Crosby skating Monday for the first time since sustaining a concussion in early January doesn't necessary translate into returning to action anytime soon for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby skated lightly for about 15 minutes Monday, maneuvering around cones and shooting a few pucks -- the first time he's been on skates since he last played Jan. 5. While talking to reporters afterward in an interview session that lasted half as long as his on-ice time, he cautioned he's not close to being ready to practice, much less to play in a game.

"I was given the opportunity to skate, and the doctors said I could give it a try and see how I feel," Crosby said. "So I did that today, and we'll see moving forward how it goes."

"I know he's feeling a lot better," said Penguins General Manager Ray Shero during an appearance on the NHL Network from Florida, where he is attending the GM meetings. "That was the main thing for us, for him to feel better every day and be symptom-free and that's a good first step for him, to get back out there a little bit and get a feel for it. The bottom line is he's feeling better."

Until a week ago, riding an exercise bike would trigger concussion-related symptoms later that day, so Crosby said he's not even thinking yet about pushing himself to get back into game shape.

"Today is progress, but I'm nowhere close to where I need to be as far as being in shape," said Crosby. "I'm not even going to talk about that. I just want to be able to get through that (skating) without getting a headache, let alone worrying about where my conditioning is at. That's a whole new level."

With the regular season down to its final month, the Penguins understand it's a realistic possibility that the player widely considered to be hockey's most gifted won't be back in their lineup this season.

Crosby himself has no idea when he might return, saying, "I'm not thinking too far ahead as far as a time frame. I just want to get better. This is part of the way to do that."

The Penguins said Crosby won't talk again publicly until there is additional clarity about his status.

"I think the most important thing is that you just feel normal and you're able to do things and work out -- just do things that every day you're usually able to do as a hockey player," said Crosby. "I realize that it's a process, but it's a step in the right direction. It doesn't mean that today I won't have symptoms and I'll have to kind of step back a bit. … (But) getting through days has been much better the last week or so."

Crosby last played Jan. 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was injured when he was hit hard into the boards by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He also had taken a hard hit on Jan. 1 from then-Capitals forward David Steckel during the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

It's cast a pall on what was looking to be a remarkable season. When Crosby got hurt, he led the NHL with 32 goals and 66 points. Despite missing 29 games, Crosby still is tied for sixth in goals and is 11th in scoring.

"Today is progress, but I'm nowhere close to where I need to be as far as being in shape. I'm not even going to talk about that. I just want to be able to get through that (skating) without getting a headache, let alone worrying about where my conditioning is at. That's a whole new level."
-- Sidney Crosby

Crosby said what's impressed him the most is how his teammates have handled his prolonged absence. The Penguins have gone 14-10-5 without Crosby, a time period that also includes the season-ending knee injury suffered by fellow All-Star Evgeni Malkin, and have remained close to Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia. The Penguins enter the week fourth in the East, just three points behind the Flyers.

"I've been here every day, and I've been around the guys," he said. "It's been pretty amazing to see the amount of character we have. I think with all the adversity we've had, the guys have really done an unbelievable job of just focusing on what they have to do out there. They've been resilient, and that's something that says a lot about our team. I don't think I was surprised, but it's pretty unique to see a group of guys and what they've been through have the success that they're having. I'm happy to see that, and for me just to be able to come here every day has been good, just to be around the guys."

Even though a return to the lineup remains some time away, Crosby felt good about putting on his skates.

"Just being on the ice is nice after not doing anything really the last few months," he said. "It's still in the early stages of things. It doesn't mean I'll be able to skate tomorrow. We'll see how everything goes. It's one of those things that you go through each day, adjust and see how you feel depending on symptoms and things like that. We'll see. It's just nice to be able to get out there."

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