PITTSBURGH (AP) - Injured center Sidney Crosby will practice with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they open training camp on Saturday.
When he returns to game action is another story.
"Seeing Sidney Crosby on the ice in that jersey and at practice, it's always good to see that," coach Dan Bylsma said in Friday. "He'll be out there with his teammates participating."
Which is a positive step, certainly, for the captain who was victimized by hard hits in successive games Jan. 1 and 5 and was forced to miss the rest of the regular season and the first-round series vs. Tampa Bay with a concussion.
But there is no telling when Crosby will take the ice with the team in a game. The Penguins open the preseason on Wednesday vs. Detroit, and open the regular season vs. Vancouver on Oct. 6.
"I'm just excited to get out there," Crosby said, as he and his teammates reported on Friday. "I don't know about special. I think I'm just excited to be with the guys and practice with the team and prepare and go through all of the fun stuff of being a hockey player. As challenging as it is, as tough as it is, that's why you play the game, is to go through this process. So I'm happy to be a part of it, but I know I also have some work to do.
"So, I'm kind of keeping all of those things in mind. I'm just excited to get going."
Crosby had 66 points at the time of the injury last season. That lead the team then, and it was still the team high at season's end. He finished with 32 goals in 41 games and was a plus-20.
The Penguins, who also played without Evgeni Malkin for most of the season, still finished with 49 wins and 106 points, and lost the Atlantic Division title only on a tiebreaker with the Philadelphia Flyers.
That said, Crosby's absence was glaring in the postseason, as the Penguins lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games during Round 1. Pittsburgh opened that series with a 3-1 lead.
"You don't want to be evaluating yourself every minute out there. You want to go out there and try to do the things you normally do and see how things go," Crosby said. "That being said, if everything is going well, you've got to use that time to get ready and get back in shape and timing and all of that stuff. It's been a long time since I've been out there with a group and it's been intense, so I'm just looking forward to getting out there and doing that."
Bylsma, who led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009, won the Jack Adams Trophy for the NHL's coach of the year in June for his efforts, especially given the loss of Crosby and Malkin, who has two 100-point seasons in his five-year NHL career. Despite the accolades, Bylsma is certainly glad to see both players back in camp. Malkin is recovering from a knee injury, but he's expected to begin the season.
"He's good. He's worked really hard and really diligently. I think part of the process right now for Geno is that this will be a level that you don't get in the office," Bylsma said. "He's worked really hard and diligent, but he'll be taxed every day now with contact and people around him. It still has to go through that. It's different than a guy that hasn't had his injury. I think he feels good. He looks confident. I'm not sure I've seen a guy that's been this confident both on the ice, off the ice, with his teammates, with his surroundings.
"I think he's a motivated guy right now."
As is Crosby, who appeared on his way to a scoring title at the time of the injury.
"There is not a realistic expectation. There's no prediction, no idea of a prediction. It's not really something we talk about in terms of putting a prediction or timeline on it. He's doing well. He's doing better. You see him on the ice participating," Bylsma said. "You're going to see a guy that looks like Sidney Crosby on the ice. He's a talented player and you can see it when he's on the ice. That's a positive thing.
"We aren't able and aren't trying to put any timeline or expectation on when the next step might be."