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Crosby likely to travel to opener with Penguins

by Alan Robinson

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is expected to accompany the team on its season-opening road trip to Western Canada next week, even if he isn't cleared to play.
While Crosby hasn't missed any training camp practices as he recovers from a concussion that occurred in early January, he also hasn't been cleared for contact in practice. With less than a week remaining before the Penguins open Oct. 6 at Vancouver, there appears to be little if any chance Crosby will be ready for the start of the season.
"I don't know a timetable after which he would begin contact," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday. "I don't know that at all, so I haven't made that anticipation and I don't have any idea when that might be."
Crosby would skip the trip to Vancouver, Calgary (Oct. 8) and Edmonton (Oct. 9) only if his doctors want him to stay home for rehabilitation, Bylsma said. If Crosby remains in Pittsburgh, he would miss two scheduled practices and three game-day skates before the Penguins return home to play Florida on Oct. 11.
The Penguins will leave for Canada on Tuesday.
"Obviously I'd love to go, but that's something I'll talk to Dan and everyone involved about to make sure that whatever it is, I end up doing is the best for everyone," Crosby said. "I think that's the discussion we'll have here pretty soon. I enjoy being around the team and I would like to be there."
The Penguins are being cautious and conservative during Crosby's recovery to make certain the former Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner is fully recovered from his concussion before he is put in any vulnerable positions on the ice. Crosby has skipped all training camp drills that include significant contact, and his only scrimmaging has been contact-free.
Still, Crosby and the Penguins are encouraged because he has had no setbacks since training camp began Sept. 17. Only weeks before camp opened, he altered his summertime workout schedule following a reoccurrence of post-concussion symptoms, including headaches.
While Crosby is skating at a 100-percent exertion level throughout camp -- something he said was needed to get ready for the season -- he said it is taking some time to regain his timing, vision and endurance.  
At the time he was hurt after absorbing hard hits in successive games Jan. 1 and Jan. 5, Crosby had just ended a 25-game scoring streak and was running away with the NHL scoring race with 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games.
Crosby understands that fans will want him to play at such a level again once he returns to game action, but he isn't certain how long that will take. He went through another demanding practice on Thursday, centering a line that also included Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis.
"Everything seems to be coming slowly, but I think that each day all of that gets better and better," Crosby said. "It's tough. I'm kind of going based on December of last year and how I felt. I'm not going to get to that level this week. It's just a matter of being realistic with how much you want to improve every day, but also paying attention to everything that's important -- so that transition is as smooth as possible."
This is by far the longest injury layoff of the 24-year-old Crosby's hockey career. He sat out about seven weeks of the 2007-08 season with a high ankle sprain.
The Penguins close out their preseason schedule Friday at Chicago and Sunday at Detroit. They have won their first four preseason games.

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