PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby says it's "likely" he'll return to play this season, but stressed he won't rush back to the ice.
Crosby hasn't played since suffering a pair of concussions in January. The former MVP said Wednesday he feels as good as he's felt in a long time but refused to put a timeline when he'll don his No. 87 jersey in a game.
The 24-year-old added he never really considered retirement but is concerned about the recurrence of concussion-like symptoms as his workouts have grown more intense.
"It's not as simple as saying there's a date and I'll feel better," Crosby said. "I'd love to have answers sometimes. There were different points where I was definitely frustrated."
Dr. Michael Collins, who has overseen Crosby's recovery, says he expects Crosby to have a "long and fruitful" NHL career but cautioned bringing him back too soon would put those prospects at risk.
"I have no earthly idea (on a return)," Collins said.
Though Crosby has been been allowed to skate, it's uncertain when he could be cleared to participate in a full-contact practice.
"We're going to introduce contact with Sid very carefully," Collins said, "and we're not even close to that."
Crosby has been a recluse since the Penguins were eliminated by Tampa Bay in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, spending most of his time rehabilitating in Canada. His silence has fueled speculation he'll never play again, a notion he emphatically shot down.
"Retirement? No," Crosby said. "I think I've always thought about the consequence of this injury, making sure I'm smart with it because at the end of the day (retirement is) the last thing I want."
Crosby's symptoms included "fogginess" that made it difficult for him to drive or watch television. He's also endured painful migraines and likened the recovery process to a roller coaster. The good days far outnumber the bad ones at the moment.
"I'm lucky," Crosby said. "I feel like I'm in pretty good shape and on the right end of this right now."
Doctors don't anticipate Crosby to live with long-term effects from the injury, at least on a personal level. The true test of his hockey future won't be determined until he absorbs a hit at full-speed.
Crosby took a pair of head shots within days of each other in early January, first against the Washington Capitals in the Winter Classic and then a few days later against Tampa Bay. He stressed he didn't feel obligated to play against the Lightning, saying his symptoms didn't really manifest until after he took the second hit.
"I think I was feeling a little bit sore in my neck (after the first one)," Crosby said. "Obviously after the Tampa game, I was feeling some symptoms."
Those symptoms are largely gone, though they have popped up when Crosby gets to 80-90 percent exertion rate.
"When I really fatigue myself or really stress (my system)," Crosby said, "I didn't really respond the right way."
Still, the Olympic gold medalist remains steadfast in the belief that he'll play again. He's hoping his case will help lead the NHL to outlaw hits to the head.
"A guy's got to be responsible with his stick, why shouldn't he be responsible with the rest of his body when he's going to hit someone," Crosby said. "Whether it's accidental or not accidental, you've got to be responsible out there."