-- Sidney Crosby
has needed rest, rehabilitation, weekly doctors' visits and lots of on-ice time while recovering from the concussion that put him out of action more than 10 months ago.
Add in plenty of patience -- now more than ever.
Crosby went through another full-scale, full-speed practice Thursday -- one so good that teammate Steve Sullivan
said he can’t tell Crosby ever was hurt -- but Crosby was ruled out of the Pittsburgh Penguins
' games Friday against Dallas (7 p.m., NHLN-US) and Saturday at Carolina.
Coach Dan Bylsma
wouldn't hint about a possible return date, but he insisted the Penguins aren't being clandestine and will disclose when Crosby has been cleared to play.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
says Sidney Crosby
will not play this weekend and that his return is still unknown. (Photo: NHL Images)
That will occur, he said, "sometime down the road," and only after Crosby's doctors are certain that a player who was dominating the NHL at this time a year ago is 100-percent ready.
"From a coach's standpoint, we're not looking for some indicator on the ice that Sidney can play," Bylsma said. "From a medical standpoint -- in terms of clearance, the next steps, progression -- that's all from the doctors' directive."
The latest news ended several days of speculation that Friday's game between the top teams in their respective conference standings would mark the return of one of the NHL's most accomplished players.
On Monday, Crosby said playing this weekend was "a possibility" -- words that were enough to rev up considerable speculation that his long-anticipated return was near. Apparently for Crosby, though, it was too much speculation.
Weary of answering near-daily questions about his return, and of constantly repeating himself, Crosby declined to talk with reporters Wednesday and Thursday. One Penguins official said he might not speak again publicly until his status has changed.
Bylsma did offer this promise: When Crosby returns, it will have been worth the wait.
"We definitely want to go through that (recovery) process and when that process is over sometime down the road, we'll see one of the most gifted players in the world return to the game," Bylsma said.
The Penguins' organization has been adamant since Crosby sustained a concussion following hard hits in games Jan. 1 and Jan. 5 that he would not be rushed back into action. The injury affected Crosby's vestibular system -- which regulates a person's movement and stability -- and requires considerable recovery time.
Still, hearing about Crosby's dazzling work during practice has made fans all the more eager to see him perform his on-ice wizardry again -- and as soon as possible. Last season, Crosby was off to the best start of any NHL player in years, with 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games.
"Eager is not the word I would use at all," Bylsma said. "Seeing him progress, and knowing the length of time and what he's gone through the last 10 months, we want to make sure we're going through the right steps to have him return and be healthy and be ready to play."
Added Bylsma, "He looks great, he flies around, but in terms of progressing and the rehab that the doctors have set out, and going through that step and getting practice with people and hitting, we definitely want to go through that step."
However long it takes.
Before Bylsma ruled out a weekend return, even some of Crosby's teammates appeared to believe he was on the verge of coming back. Sullivan, who has yet to play a game with Crosby, said it's been easy to tell in practice the special talent that Crosby possesses.
"I feel everyone else's anticipation of it," Sullivan said. "More and more people are coming in every couple of days as we get closer to it. Inside the dressing room, it's still status quo for us. We see him out there every single day, working as hard as he can, trying to get himself ready. We can't wait to have him back in the lineup and we look forward to that day."
Even if no one seems to know for sure when that day will be.
After Saturday's game in Carolina, the Penguins are home Tuesday against Colorado (7:30 p.m., Versus, TSN2), then play at Tampa Bay on Nov. 17 and at Florida on Nov. 19. The following week, they play four times in six days -- three at home -- around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Sullivan made this prediction about what the NHL will see once Crosby makes his comeback.
"He's not going to be the Sidney Crosby
of old the first game back," he said. "(But it's only) going to take him a couple of games."
The Penguins are more than willing to wait for that.
For now, they could welcome back forward Tyler Kennedy
(concussion) as early as Friday. His status will be a game-time decision. Kennedy last played on Oct. 15.