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Crosby on ice as part of normal off-season training

by Alan Robinson /
PITTSBURGH -- This is what Pittsburgh Penguins fans have been waiting to hear for months: Sidney Crosby is back on skates.
Crosby, who missed the second half of the NHL season due to a concussion, is skating again as part of his normal offseason workouts. As usual, Crosby is doing his summertime conditioning work in his native Nova Scotia.
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero confirmed Friday that Crosby is skating for the first time since April 20, when headaches caused the team captain to shut down his workouts during a first-round playoff series loss to Tampa Bay.
"Everything has gone well," Shero said during the Penguins' player development camp here at Consol Energy Center. "There are no red flags."
The Penguins have every expectation that Crosby will be ready for the start of training camp in mid-September. If there are no additional setbacks, Crosby hopes to be cleared for contact work during camp. Pittsburgh opens the season Oct. 6 at Vancouver.
"It's part of his progression, to be ready for training camp," Shero said. "That is our expectation, he will be ready for training camp.  He's been working out hard off the ice,  and getting back on the ice is part of it as well."
Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, has said there is every expectation that the Stanley Cup-winning Crosby -- a former NHL scoring champion and MVP -- will make a full recovery.
Crosby, who turns 24 on Aug. 7, suffered a pair of hard hits in back-to-back games Jan. 1 against Washington and Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay. On Jan. 6, he was diagnosed with a concussion and did not play again, missing the final 41 games of the regular season and all seven Penguins playoff games.
Crosby held a significant lead in the NHL scoring race at the time he was hurt, and his season-ending average of 1.61 points per game easily led all players.
Crosby resumed practicing March 31, but was not permitted to take part in any contact drills. While he was soon skating at game speed and showing off some flashy moves during workouts, he never progressed to the point where he could take part in any full-scale practicing. Crosby said the concussion was the first of his career.
As their player development camp concludes Saturday afternoon with a scrimmage that is free to the public, the Penguins are experiencing an uncommon offseason in which not one but two marquee players are recovering from major injuries.
Evgeni Malkin, also a former Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer, is mending from surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. He was hurt Feb. 4 against Buffalo and went on to miss the rest of the season and the Penguins' one playoff series.
However, Malkin healed even faster than the Penguins expected and coach Dan Bylsma said there was a possibility he could have played if Pittsburgh had beaten Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Penguins held a 3-1 series lead before dropping the final three games, two at home.
Malkin is working out in Russia and also expects to be ready for the start of camp.
"We have heard though (former Penguins defenseman) Sergei Gonchar that he's never seen Geno working this hard and looking this good and this motivated at this time of the summer," Bylsma said. "So I expect a real motivated, a real focused guy, and a guy who is ready to go for training camp."
Getting their two stars back healthy would be a major lift for the Penguins, who won 49 games and piled up 106 points despite playing only two games all season with their top three centers -- Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal. Staal missed the first half of the season with complications from a right foot injury and a broken right hand.
The possibility of playing on a line with any of the three delights Steve Sullivan, the former Nashville forward who is the Penguins' major offseason addition to date. The Penguins also re-signed forwards Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis, but forward Maxime Talbot signed with Philadelphia.
"I have never seen a cast of centermen like there is here," said Sullivan, who signed a one-year contract after playing the last six seasons with Nashville. "I don't think it matters where I play, right wing or left wing -- anywhere with any of those three would be a thrill."
Sullivan is a right-handed shooter on a team that is predominantly left-handed, so it would seem a natural fit for him to play on the left side.
Sullivan missed time with a sports hernia during the season before sustaining a knee injury during Nashville's second-round playoff series loss to eventual Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver. He said he could have played if the Predators had advanced another round.
Going deep into the playoffs is what the 37-year-old Sullivan expects in Pittsburgh.
"This team has the longevity to be a winner for a long time," he said during a visit to the player development camp this week. "For myself, this time around was all about winning. It was about a chance to win the Stanley Cup."
Sullivan adds yet another experienced scorer to an especially deep group of forwards; Sullivan has 692 points, including 266 goals, in 892 career games.
For depth, forwards Craig Adams, Arron Asham, Nick Johnson and Ryan Craig were brought back and defenseman Boris Valabik and forward Colin McDonald were signed.
The top four defensemen (Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin) also return, as do goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson.
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