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Sidney Crosby back on ice, but not close to being in playing shape @NHLdotcom

PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby practised with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday for the first time since injuring his right ankle last month,

Crosby, last season's NHL scoring champion, was expected to be out six to eight weeks - or from early to mid March - when he sustained a high ankle sprain Jan. 18 against Tampa Bay.

The Penguins have not revised that timetable since he was hurt, and Crosby also doesn't have a firm target date for returning.

"If you want a prediction, it's not going to happen," Crosby said. "It's the most frustrating thing to really go through, because two days you can feel pretty good and one day you can wake up and it's sore. Your body needs to heal and that's the way I have to approach it."

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been out since Dec. 6, or more than two months, with the same injury and is not yet ready to play.

Crosby skated four times on his own this week, but Friday was the first time he practised with his teammates since being hurt. Wearing a yellow jersey to show that he was barred from contact, Crosby worked on his shooting and skating and attempted to make sharp turns and quick starts.

Crosby said he is hoping that by working on his conditioning while his ankle heals, he can play immediately after he is cleared by doctors.

"I'm probably going to re-evaluate it in about a week or two weeks and see where I am," he said. "It's going to take a while. I'm not ready to play ... Wishful thinking would be a couple of more weeks, but I really don't know."

Merely being on the ice again isn't an indication that he might be able to return sooner than initially expected, Crosby said.

"Some guys skate like this early on, some guys don't," he said. "Just because I'm skating earlier doesn't mean I'm going to be able to play earlier. The whole reason for this is to make sure I'm not wasting any time, as far as conditioning and things like that go."

Coach Michel Therrien said the team didn't expect Crosby to be skating this soon, but he also cautioned that "skating and battling are not the same thing."

The injury has taken away some of Crosby's strength and conditioning, and he needs time to get back into playing shape.

"I don't have any strength, really," he said. "I'm not as powerful when I'm turning, things like that. I'm favouring it. Everything I'm usually able to do, I can't do it at full potential, especially when it comes to guys leaning on me. I'm not ready there."

The Penguins, who are 4-2-2 since Crosby was hurt, play at home Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings and Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

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