TAMPA BAY --
The absence of Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby
from an optional skate here at St. Pete Times Forum wasn't much of a surprise.
Crosby, who hasn't skated for two straight days since his last twirl on the ice in Pittsburgh, was told to remain off the ice by team doctors. He was seen in an alternate locker room, smiling and conversing with players and coaches for the Penguins.
"Friday was the last time he skated and his workout regimen and the one he's gone through the last five days continues to be all through the doctor," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
said. "He's been working out off the ice and that's through and in communication with the doctor. There hasn't been a change in his status."
"It's something that if he plays, he plays. He's one of the best players, if not the best player in the world, so it's going to be a big boost for them. But we're not coming into games wondering if he's going to play or not." -- Steven Stamkos on Sidney Crosby
Crosby, sidelined since Jan. 6 with a concussion, cannot even begin thinking about making a return until he undergoes a few practices without the non-contact jersey. Crosby had participated in 10 on-ice workouts with the complete team since being cleared for non-contact workouts on March 30. Other than that, he's been under close watch by the team doctors while participating in some off-ice workouts.
There's no timetable on when he might return and he did not speak with reporters following the team's optional practice on Monday in preparation for Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning
. The Penguins and Lightning are even in this best-of-7 series, 1-1.
The Penguins won 49 games and accumulated 106 points -- tied for third-most in the NHL -- despite playing half the season without stars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
(knee) and the first 39 games of the year without center Jordan Staal
. They won Game 1 against Tampa Bay 3-0 on Wednesday before suffering a 5-1 setback on Friday in Game 2 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Prior to his concussion, Crosby led in the NHL scoring race with 66 points in 41 games.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos
said that while he would like nothing more than to see Crosby regain his health, the team isn't too concerned with whether he returns to the lineup at this time.
"We haven't even really talked about it," Stamkos said. "It's something that if he plays, he plays. He's one of the best players, if not the best player in the world, so it's going to be a big boost for them. But we're not coming into games wondering if he's going to play or not.
"We're focused on the lineup right now and what we have to do in order to beat them and we found a way to do that in Game 2. We're focusing on the guys in the lineup right now and looking forward to this one (on Monday)."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale