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Crosby back on ice, not close to being in playing shape @NHLdotcom

PITTSBURGH (AP) -Sidney Crosby returned to practice with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, almost three weeks after spraining his ankle in a crash into the boards.

Crosby skated four times on his own this week, but Friday's practice was his first work with his teammates since sustaining the injury Jan. 18 against Tampa Bay. Wearing a yellow jersey to show that he was barred from contact, Crosby worked on his shooting and skating and attempted to make sharp turns and quick starts.

Last season's scoring champ was expected to be out six to eight weeks and the Penguins, 4-2-2 since Crosby was hurt, have not revised that timetable. Crosby also doesn't have a firm target date for returning.

"If you want a prediction, it's not going to happen," Crosby said. "It's the most frustrating thing to really go through, because two days you can feel pretty good and one day you can wake up and it's sore. Your body needs to heal and that's the way I have to approach it."

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been out since Dec. 6, or more than two months, with the same type of high ankle sprain and is not yet ready to play.

Crosby said he is hoping that by working on his conditioning while his ankle heals, he can play immediately after he is cleared by doctors.

"I'm probably going to reevaluate it in about a week or two weeks and see where I am," he said. "It's going to take a while. I'm not ready to play ... Wishful thinking would be a couple of more weeks, but I really don't know."

Merely being on the ice again isn't an indication that he might be able to return sooner than initially expected, Crosby said.

"Some guys skate like this early on, some guys don't," he said. "Just because I'm skating earlier doesn't mean I'm going to be able to play earlier. The whole reason for this is to make sure I'm not wasting any time, as far as conditioning and things like that go."

Coach Michel Therrien said the team didn't expect Crosby to be skating this soon, but he also cautioned that "skating and battling are not the same thing."

The injury has taken away some of Crosby's strength and conditioning, and he needs time to get back into playing shape.

"I'm not as powerful when I'm turning, things like that. I'm favoring it," Crosby said. "Everything I'm usually able to do, I can't do it at full potential, especially when it comes to guys leaning on me. I'm not really there."

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