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Crosby more active at practice, status still unknown

by Shawn P. Roarke

PITTSBURGH -- Despite an expanded profile during practice Thursday, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby said he is no closer to returning to action.

The Penguins play Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders on Friday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Crosby made some line rushes with regular linemates Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on Thursday, and slotted in on one of the power-play units in place of Jussi Jokinen during a 50-minute practice at Consol Energy Center. Crosby did neither of those activities while skating with the team during practice Tuesday or at the morning skate Wednesday.

"It was nice to get in a couple of reps," Crosby said.

However, Crosby cautioned not to read too much into it, insisting he has not been given clearance by doctors to play and does not have a timetable for when he might return from the broken jaw he sustained when he was hit in the face by a deflected puck during a game March 30.

He did say he is in regular contact with the doctors about his jaw. Tuesday, Crosby said he would return as soon as he was given clearance by the doctors and would not need any extra time to re-enter the lineup.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he likes the way Crosby has looked during on-ice situations this week.

"He's looked good on the ice for a couple of days now," Bylsma said. "His speed, his quickness through the neutral zone -- even today, he had a few power-play reps, his quickness, his stops and starts, his quickness jumping away from checks is there. I thought he looked good out there."

Though he admitted giving Crosby some time with his traditional linemates and on the man-advantage unit was probably good for the mental health of Crosby, who is champing at the bit to return, it also served a purpose for the rest of the team.

"That's what we have kind of done over the last seven days or so. We are just preparing for different scenarios and what the possibilities might be at any given time," Bylsma said. "To have him take a few reps -- on the line rush or with the power play today -- those are opportunities to prepare for what may happen down the road."

The Penguins could face a lineup decision or two for Game 2 here.

James Neal, who was injured in the second period of the 5-0 Game 1 victory, did not skate Thursday. His status for Friday is unclear as Bylsma refused to provide an update on any of the Penguins' injured players.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik also appears to be inching closer to returning; he practiced with the team for a second-straight day after being sidelined for a week with a lower-body injury.

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