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Penguins' Crosby likely to make opening trip

| Friday, Sept. 30, 2011

The sky is no limit for Sidney Crosby next week.

"We'll be starting with everybody going on the trip that's part of our group with us at that time unless their rehab needs to be at a (different) facility," coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday after a practice at Consol Energy Center. "I anticipate that will be the case with Sid."

Crosby is not cleared for contact let alone to play in regular-season games at Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton next week. But he also won't be traveling with the Penguins charter Tuesday for mere moral support.

The Penguins are scheduled to practice twice and hold three game-day morning skates on their six-day trek that includes the season-opener at Vancouver on Thursday. Crosby would like to maintain a groove that has him feeling better than at any time since being diagnosed with a concussion Jan. 6.

"It's more just staying in shape, timing and stuff like that," Crosby said. "I'd like to keep that going. I'd love to keep that as consistent as possible. We'll see how things go, but the more I can do that, the better it'll be as far as adjusting."

If training camp has proven anything, it is that Crosby is adjusting to a return to normalcy since sustaining his concussion.

He has successfully navigated his camp scheduled without an absence. A more encouraging sign is that he has not experienced headaches, fogginess or nausea.

He remains cleared by his medical team for only noncontact drills. However, during on-ice sessions — including one yesterday — he has not avoided traffic areas and occasionally has engaged in the usual bumps that accompany retrieving pucks and winning faceoffs.

These are all signs of a player nearing a return to full action, Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz said, speaking from his own experiences coming back from lengthy injury absences.

"If you're already practicing with the team before you leave (for a long road trip), you're close to game action," Kunitz said.

Crosby skated yesterday with Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis as his wingers.

Aside from wearing a white helmet indicating noncontact status and sounding slightly winded after practice, Crosby has looked like his old self on the ice. His strides are purposeful. His voice booms when speaking with teammates. His famous competitive spirit flashes after a pass doesn't directly land on another stick blade.

The Penguins have not said whether Crosby could play on the trip. Bylsma said yesterday he had "no idea" about a timetable for Crosby to play after he is cleared for contact. Nobody within the organization has suggested a clearance date.

Still, there is a general sense of optimism inside the Penguins' dressing room regarding Crosby's progress, and Kunitz said sticking with a routine is "vital" for a player trying to return.

"Obviously, I'd love to go, but it's something I'll talk to Dan (about) and everyone involved to make sure that whatever it is I end up doing, that's best for everyone," Crosby said. "That's a discussion we'll have here pretty soon, but I enjoy being around the team and would like to be there."

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