Crosby careful in 1st practice with Penguins

| Friday, April 26, 2013, 4:12 p.m.

Sidney Crosby wants to play.

Whether he can when the Penguins open the Stanley Cup playoffs will dominate hockey talk in Pittsburgh and throughout Canada for the next several days.

Crosby practiced with the Penguins on Friday at Southpointe Iceoplex, though he didn't participate in contact drills.

“I'm trying to be pretty careful, don't put myself in position to have a setback,” Crosby said after his first team practice since he was injured March 30. “You try to get used to the tempo and speed, just stay out of the way a bit.”

His return to practice drew a near-capacity crowd to the Penguins' practice facility, and non-regulars among the media included a Canadian TV crew.

Crosby won't play in the Penguins' regular-season home finale against Carolina on Saturday night.

The NHL playoffs begin Tuesday. A Black Keys concert at Consol Energy Center that night won't allow the Penguins to open until at least Wednesday.

Crosby hasn't been cleared medically to take contact in practices and isn't allowed to play in games. He has missed the past 11 games.

There remains no time frame for Crosby's return, coach Dan Bylsma said.

There also remains no concern his return would make for a challenging adjustment.

“That's a non-story,” right winger Pascal Dupuis said. “I know where he's going. He obviously knows where I'm going. There's all kind of chemistry with whatever (Bylsma) wants to do with the lines.”

Bylsma wouldn't divulge a plan for his two top lines for the playoffs, though he said one exists with and without Crosby.

At the time of his injury, Crosby anchored a line with left winger Chris Kunitz and Dupuis on the right wing. Bylsma said then he wasn't inclined to break up what had been the NHL's most productive three-man group.

Kunitz, a top-10 scorer, also excelled last season playing with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal, as Dupuis noted.

Bylsma said Friday that Jarome Iginla, a natural right winger, has grown more comfortable playing on the opposite side. Before Crosby was injured, Bylsma planned to skate Iginla on the left wing with Malkin and Neal, who switched sides prior to the start of last season when he scored 40 goals.

Bylsma suggested his third line — wingers Brenden Morrow and Matt Cooke between center Brandon Sutter — was likely to remain stable if those players are healthy.

“Those three players together bring a certain element to our team that we're going to look to have in our lineup as a unit,” Bylsma said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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