Pens star Crosby re­turns to prac­tice after con­cus­sion

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY WILL GRAVES

Sid­ney Crosby re­turned to work Fri­day, prac­tis­ing with his Pitts­burgh Pen­guins team­mates barely four days re­moved from a fright­en­ing hit that left the him with a con­cus­sion, and his sta­tus for the rest of the play­offs un­cer­tain.

While the two-time MVP de­clined to get into specifics whether he’ll be avail­able for Game 5 at Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day, he’s keep­ing his op­tions open.

“We’ll see,’’ Crosby said. “I don’t want to rule it out. It’s not re­ally up to me. You re­lay how you feel and they kind of di­rect you from there.’’

Pen­guins coach Mike Sul­li­van is in no rush to make a de­ci­sion on Crosby as the de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons try to close out the Cap­i­tals.

“We’ll see how he re­sponds (to prac­tis­ing) and go from there,’’ Sul­li­van said.

Still, the sight of Crosby on the ice and cleared for contact opens the pos­si­bil­ity of Crosby play­ing in the near fu­ture — star­tling con­sid­er­ing the way he left the ice in the first pe­riod of Game 3 on Mon­day after get­ting cross-checked in the head by Wash­ing­ton’s Matt Niska­nen. The hit left him with his sec­ond con­cus­sion of the sea­son and at least the fourth of his ca­reer. He needed nearly two years to re­cover from one sus­tained in Jan­uary 2011, and missed two weeks when he was di­ag­nosed with a con­cus­sion last Oc­to­ber.

There’s a chance the wait may be even shorter this time for Crosby, who led the league with 44 goals and has four goals and seven as­sists through eight play­off games. Crosby felt “as good as you could ex­pect’’ Tues­day morn­ing. He was around to sup­port his team­mates dur­ing their 3-2 win in Game 4 and skated in full gear dur­ing a sched­uled off day Thurs­day be­fore re­join­ing the group Fri­day.

While Crosby ap­pre­ci­ates the con­cern about his con­di­tion given his con­cus­sion history, he stressed he’s not rush­ing back. Game 6 would be Mon­day night in Pitts­burgh if nec­es­sary.

“I think hav­ing gone through this I’d like to think I’m pretty aware of my body at this point,’’ he said. “I un­der­stand the im­por­tance of mak­ing sure you’re good be­fore you come back. I have a lot of be­lief in our staff here that they’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing in their power to make sure I’m good when I come back.’’

Crosby was skat­ing in front of the Wash­ing­ton goal when he was knocked off-bal­ance thanks to a whack from Cap­i­tals star Alexan­der Ovechkin be­fore get­ting drilled by Niska­nen.

The de­fence­man, who re­ceived a five-minute ma­jor and a game mis­con­duct for the cross-check, in­sisted it wasn’t in­ten­tional. Wash­ing­ton coach Barry Trotz called it “a hockey play.’’

Crosby had no is­sue with his run-in with Ovechkin, call­ing it “stan­dard’’ prac­tice when you skate in front of the op­po­nent’s net. He re­served judg­ment on Niska­nen, a for­mer team­mate. Crosby said the col­li­sion isn’t “one that hap­pens too of­ten,’’ but later added “it’s re­ally tough to gauge that one. Things hap­pen fast out there.’’

Trotz “wouldn’t be sur­prised’’ if he saw Crosby’s fa­mil­iar No. 87 on Satur­day night.

“Sid is a very in­tel­li­gent young man and he will make the right de­ci­sion,’’ Trotz said.

Pitts­burgh for­ward Conor Sheary, who also sus­tained a con­cus­sion in Game 3 after in­ad­ver­tently get­ting checked by team­mate Pa­tric Horn­qvist, also prac­tised in full gear Fri­day. Like Crosby, Sheary’s sta­tus is day to day. Pen­guins goal­tender Matt Mur­ray worked out be­fore prac­tice, a pos­i­tive step as he re­cov­ers from a lower-body in­jury suf­fered dur­ing warm-ups be­fore Game 1 of Pitts­burgh’s first-round se­ries against Colum­bus.

With Marc-An­dre Fleury play­ing so well, Mur­ray can take his time get­ting back. Sul­li­van in­sisted the team is tak­ing the same ap­proach with Crosby.

“We trust our doc­tors,’’ Sul­li­van said. “We trust our med­i­cal team, and when they tell us he’s OK, we’re con­fi­dent Sid’s good.’’

AP PHOTO

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins’ Sid­ney Crosby, right, skates past as­sis­tant coach Rick Toc­chet dur­ing NHL prac­tice, Fri­day, at the team’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity in Cranberry, Pa. It was Crosby’s first time back on the ice since he suf­fered a con­cus­sion in Game 3 of Pitts­burgh’s play­off se­ries against Wash­ing­ton. It’s still un­cer­tain whether he will be avail­able for Game 5 on Satur­day night in Wash­ing­ton.

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