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Crosby works out for Pens' ticket holders

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, encouraged by a setback-free training camp to date, gave several thousand Pittsburgh Penguins season ticket holders a welcomed surprise Sunday by taking part in a controlled scrimmage.
There was no contact -- Crosby still hasn't been cleared for such work as he recovers from a concussion -- in a session that focused mostly on set plays and faceoffs. He also participated in a shootout that ended the workout, snapping off a quick shot that was deflected high and wide by goaltender Scott Munroe.
"It was very controlled," coach Dan Bylsma said of the scrimmage. "It wasn't much of a display of skill, lines or matchups."
But it was No. 87 on the ice, and that was good enough for the season ticket holder-only audience.
"It was a lot of teaching stuff," Crosby said. "It was good to refresh all of that. It's been a while since we went over that on the ice. I'm happy to be out there."


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Crosby, whose return date for game action remains uncertain, is visibly encouraged by his progress during the first 10 days of training camp -- as he related to the fans later in a Penguins town hall meeting held on the Consol Energy Center ice.
He has experienced none of the concussion-related symptoms, including headaches, that caused him to alter his summertime off-season conditioning drills. He has been jostled, pushed and has worked heavily in traffic during drills, or about as close to contact as a player can get without actually experiencing it.
For Crosby, there have been no disappointments or discouraging moments.
"I feel like I'm getting there," Crosby said. "The last few weeks have been great. I've come a long way and I'm looking forward to getting back soon."
Neither Crosby nor coach Dan Bylsma dropped any hints about when Crosby might get the go-ahead to ramp up his on-ice work, which would mean practicing like any other player -- and without the no-contact white helmet he has worn so far.
During a question-and-answer period in which players responded to written questions from the fans, Crosby was asked what he is most looking forward to  this season.
"I'm just looking forward to getting out there," he replied.
Bylsma's answer? "Adding No. 87 (Crosby) and No. 71 (Evgeni Malkin) and being a great team."

Malkin, who missed the final two months of the regular season and the Penguins' seven-game playoff series loss to Tampa Bay last season, looks to be fully recovered from right knee surgery. He has scored in each of the two preseason games in which he has played, and has been the No. 1 star in both.
"He's come with a lot of passion, a lot of work and he looks outstanding," Bylsma said.

Bylsma also revealed his anticipated line combinations once Crosby returns. Crosby will center a line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal, while Malkin will be between veteran Steve Sullivan and Tyler Kennedy. Staal will again be between  Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis on a line that will go against the opposing team's top line.
"It makes me mad when I hear that line being talked about as our No. 3 line," Bylsma said. "Jordan Staal plays against Alex Ovechkin and all the other outstanding players., You don't send out a third line to take on those kind of players." 
During the town hall meeting, which was invitation-only, team president David Morehouse revealed the team's season ticket waiting list has climbed to 9,000. When he asked how many in attendance were added to the list of active ticket holders this season, only a smattering of applause was heard -- an indication of how little turnover there has been.
Morehouse outlined some of the franchise's accomplishments off the ice, including its ongoing streak of 210 consecutive sellouts -- a run that began at the now-closed Civic Arena, which is due to be demolished beginning Monday. The Penguins played there from 1967-2010.
The Penguins, Morehouse said, were No. 1 in NHL merchandise sales last season and No. 1 in local TV ratings. A preseason telecast against Detroit last week drew a higher rating than the regular season average of all but two other franchises.
General manager Ray Shero said this season's goal is the same as any other -- to win the Stanley Cup.
"While the ending last season was disappointing, it's commendable for our coaches and players getting 106 points despite losing Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby to injuries for half a season. My job is to give you a team you can be proud of, and that was a team you can be proud of."
Bylsma received a standing ovation as he addressed the crowd ahead of a players-only sit-down with Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang. Bylsma set the stage for the return of former Penguins players Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot with the rival Flyers, saying, "I can't wait until Dec. 29. It's going to be interesting. I can't wait to see what our fans have in store for them."
Of opposing Talbot, Staal said, "Max was a friend when he was here. Obviously, it's going to be different seeing him skating around with a dirty Flyers jersey. It's part of the game, you lose friends, but he did what was best for him. It's unfortunate, and we'll have to beat him."
The players were asked previously submitted questions,  but  they still managed to reveal  glimpses of their personalities.
Crosby, for example, said he probably would have been a fire fighter if he hadn't played hockey; Fleury, who drives a sports car, said, "Policeman - so you can drive fast."
And Letang had a quick comeback when Crosby joked that the Letang's strenuous offseason workout  program that was shown in video clips on the team's website was "fake."
"He wishes he could work out that way," Letang said, and not seriously, about Crosby, who is known for his work ethic and passionate commitment to always being in top shape.
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