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Crosby traveling with Pens, out Thursday

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- A change of scenery for Sidney Crosby, but still no change in his status.
Crosby went through a full Pittsburgh Penguins practice Wednesday, a day following their come-from-behind 6-3 victory over Colorado, but will not play Thursday night at Tampa Bay.
Coach Dan Bylsma did not rule out Crosby for Saturday night's game against the Florida Panthers, but also wouldn't elaborate on whether Crosby's long-anticipated return is possible that night. The Penguins generally clarify Crosby's status on a game-to-game basis only.
Crosby has not talked with reporters since Nov. 7, when the team said he would resume doing interviews only when there was a change in his status. Crosby missed the final 41 games of last season and has yet to play this season because of a concussion that occurred the first week of January.
While Crosby began taking part in contact work during practice on Oct. 13, he still must be cleared by his doctors to resume his playing career. Crosby said he meets with them on a weekly basis, and they discuss all aspects of his recovery.
Crosby has missed only one scheduled practice since training camp began two months ago, a morning skate in Los Angeles on Nov. 5 so he could return to Pittsburgh and meet with his doctors.
Neither Crosby nor the Penguins have given any sign that the 24-year-old superstar center has had any setbacks in his recovery. The Penguins have emphasized all season that Crosby would return only when he was fully healthy, and there is no timetable or targeted return date for him to resume playing.
His teammates, not surprisingly, are as eager as anyone for the return of the player who was the runaway leader in the NHL scoring race when he was hurt.
"He's on his way," Penguins forward James Neal said. "He'll be back soon, and he'll be 100 percent. When he feels ready, he'll be there."
Even without Crosby, the Penguins are off to a strong start with an 11-4-3 record and an Eastern Conference-leading 25 points after going 8-2-1 in their last 11 games. Tampa Bay is 8-7-2, but has dropped its last two games after winning its previous three.
Crosby's last game was against Tampa Bay, an 8-1 Pittsburgh victory on Jan. 5, when he was driven into the end boards by a hit from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. Crosby has not played since that hit, which followed a hard hit by David Steckel, then of the Capitals, four days before.
Thursday's game will be the first between the Lightning and Penguins since Tampa Bay rallied from a 3-1 deficit to oust Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last spring. The Lightning won 1-0 in Game 7 in Pittsburgh.
"We're very familiar with that team," Bylsma said. "They have some very dangerous forwards: (Steven) Stamkos, (Martin) St. Louis, (Vincent) Lecavalier. Their power play is very dangerous and has beaten us in the past. … We need to make sure we're getting to the offensive zone so that we can do work where we can be good and hopefully exploit Tampa Bay."
While Crosby hasn't made all of the road trips, he wouldn't miss this one -- it's the annual dads' trip for the fathers of Penguins players.
"It's an amazing trip," said Sam Vitale, the father of Penguins forward Joe Vitale. "The dads were talking here, and it seems like yesterday when we were in the locker rooms putting skates on these little guys. When you think of the percentages for a kid to make it this far (to the NHL), it's just short of a miracle."
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