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Sidney Crosby could return for Penguins on Tuesday

Pittsburgh captain skates in full-contact practice for first time since concussion diagnosis

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby returned to a full-contact practice Monday and could make his season debut against the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ROOT, FS-F, NHL.TV).

It was the first time Crosby was allowed to practice with no restrictions since he sustained a concussion during practice Oct. 7. He has missed each of the Penguins first six games (3-2-1).

"I feel good," Crosby said. "It's good to have some days like that. Hopefully we can build from here. … It's encouraging to be able to practice with the team and go in the right direction."

Crosby was first on the ice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Monday. He took line rushes with Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson, and also worked on the top power play with Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Justin Schultz.

Tweet from @penguins: Welcome back to practice, Sid!

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby remains day to day.

Crosby last practiced Oct. 12, wearing a yellow no-contact jersey. He wore a regular black practice jersey Monday.

After practicing for more than an hour, Crosby said he was not experiencing any symptoms stemming from the concussion.

"I kind of got the OK to go out there and be in a full practice, so it was just fun to be out there," Crosby said. "We'll talk about [if I'm ready to play]. They're always asking a lot of questions and making sure that you're good from a different standpoint, obviously your health and your timing, and if you feel comfortable out there with pace and fatigue."

Crosby spent an early portion of the practice battling defenseman Trevor Daley in the goal crease during 2-on-2 drills. Sullivan said having Crosby present helped amplify the other players' performance.

"It's obviously a big step when he joins the group," Sullivan said. "I think his presence in practice has a huge influence on the intensity of the practice, just because of his habits and how he approaches the game. Certainly to have him join the group in a full-contact practice like that is encouraging from our standpoint."

After practicing Oct. 7, Crosby said he planned to play in the Penguins' final preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets the next day. However, he awoke that morning with a headache and told team trainers, and the Penguins held him out of the game.

Tweet from @penguins: Coach Sullivan on Crosby: "It's obviously a big step when he joins the group. His intensity has a big influence on the team."

Crosby took part in Pittsburgh's Fan Fest event at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 9, but missed practice the following day because of concussion testing. It later was announced Crosby had sustained his third concussion in six years.

Four days after being injured by what he called getting "tangled up" in the Oct. 7 practice, Crosby returned to the ice. He skated on his own Oct. 11 and 12.

After skating Oct. 12, Crosby left the public rink at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, walked to another rink, grabbed a different stick and joined his teammates for practice. He changed into the no-contact jersey to participate in limited line drills.

Crosby's concussion history began Jan. 1, 2011, when he was hit by Washington Capitals forward David Steckel during the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

After he had an assist and played 19:03 against the Tampa Bay Lightning four days later, Crosby did not play again until Nov. 21, 2011 against the New York Islanders, his first of eight games back before missing an additional three months.

Crosby returned again against the New York Rangers on March 15, 2012, and remained in the lineup throughout the rest of the regular season and the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Last season he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. He then led Team Canada to the championship at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 last month and was named the tournament's most valuable player with 10 points in six games.

The concussion stalled what was expected to be a strong start to the regular season for Crosby, but his consistent progression has helped him remain optimistic.

"I think it's encouraging when you're able to skate," Crosby said. "You're able to stay in shape. Going out there today, being able to go through a regular practice, I think when you have things like that, that are encouraging and mean you're going in the right direction, it's a little bit easier to stay motivated and stay up-beat about it."

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