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Sidney Crosby had 'zero' concussion symptoms in Game 6

Penguins forward said team doctor examined him, determined he did not have to come out of loss to Capitals

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Tuesday he had no concussion symptoms after falling headfirst into the end boards in the first period of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Monday.

"Zero," Crosby said.

A Penguins doctor examined Crosby during the first intermission and determined he did not need to be removed from play for acute evaluation. Crosby played the rest of the 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at PPG Paints Arena.

Crosby had no symptoms Tuesday and practiced at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. He is expected to play in Game 7 at Verizon Center on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"There shouldn't be any wondering about it," Crosby said. "We can sit here and I can explain for 10 minutes what concussion protocol is and all that stuff. I don't really want to do it. I think that's up to you to understand all that different stuff. But as far as being checked by a doctor, yes, absolutely. Any guy that goes into the boards like that, the first thing is trainer, then the doctor. That's how it goes."

Video: Hear what Crosby has to say after practice

The NHL Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol is issued by the Concussion Subcommittee of medical, legal and hockey experts from the NHL, the NHL Players' Association, and individual teams. It sets forth the procedures teams shall follow regarding concussion education, testing, identification, evaluation and management.

Put simply, it is the rulebook for concussions. The Penguins followed the rules when Crosby sustained a concussion in Game 3 on May 1 and returned in Game 5 five days later, and again when Crosby fell into the end boards in Game 6.

In the first period of Game 3, Crosby went to the net on a 2-on-1, got knocked off balance by Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and took a cross-check to the head from Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen. Crosby missed the rest of the game, and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan announced the next day Crosby had a concussion. Crosby skated for three days, including a full-contact practice, and passed a baseline test before returning for Game 5.

The protocol states there is no mandatory amount of time a player must be withheld from play following a concussion, because the decision is based on individual circumstances. The player must satisfy three criteria to return to play: complete recovery from concussion-related symptoms at rest, no emergence of concussion-related symptoms at exertion levels required for play, and a return to neurocognitive baseline. The team doctor is solely responsible for the return-to-play decision.

In Game 6, Crosby took a stick to the face, bumped heads with teammate Patric Hornqvist and went off slowly early in the first period. Crosby went to the net ahead of Capitals defenseman John Carlson and Hornqvist, clipped goaltender Braden Holtby, fell headfirst into the end boards, and got up slowly late in the first.

"I was just going hard to the net," Crosby said. "I don't know if I tripped on a stick or someone else. I mean, I just got tripped up there going pretty fast and went into the boards pretty awkwardly. Felt fine. Just kind of knocked the wind out of me, but felt fine. If you're looking for a test when you're coming back, that's a good one."

The NHL added concussion spotters as an extra layer in the process this season. They noted the play and spoke to the Penguins.

It did not meet the criteria for mandatory removal from play for acute evaluation.

Video: Taking a look at Capitals-Penguins standout players

The protocol states a player must be removed from play if he receives a blow to the head and exhibits symptoms, lies motionless on the ice, has motor incoordination or balance problems, or has a blank or vacant look.

A player must be removed from play if he is slow to get up or clutches his head after any of three mechanisms of injury: a blow to the head or upper torso from another player's shoulder, the head making secondary contact with the ice, or a punch in the head by an ungloved fist during a fight. For any other mechanism of injury, removal of play is not mandatory. It is up to the team medical staff whether to remove the player for acute evaluation.

"The doctor is the one who decides whether you need to go through the concussion protocol," Crosby said.

That's what happened.

"The medical staff and the spotters are responsible for identifying players that go through the protocol," Sullivan said. "If they go through the protocol, then I usually get notified by our medical staff. I did not. And so that's the process."

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