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Crosby comeback still on hold for Penguins

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Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011

The Penguins, despite their strong start, remain only a side act to hockey's hottest star.

Thing is, Sidney Crosby still isn't playing.

His comeback will not happen tonight against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center, but even that was a subject of confusion Monday after his team practiced. A recap:

> > Crosby took the place of injured left winger Steve Sullivan on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing James Neal during the approximately 70-minute practice at Consol Energy Center.

> > He was the last skater to leave the ice after working individual drills with backup goalie Brent Johnson.

> > He declined to speak with the media upon entering the dressing room.

"Nothing's changed, Sid's not talking," said Frank Buonomo, senior director of team operations. "I don't blame him."

Buonomo also serves, unofficially, as Crosby's media contact with the Penguins.

> > Coach Dan Bylsma said "there's no change in Sidney Crosby's status" during his daily post-practice media session.

However, when pressed by a television reporter if there was "no chance (Crosby) is going to play," Bylsma said, "I'm not saying that; I'm saying we'll let you know when he's going to play, and there's no change in his status."

> > Team officials later relayed to various media members that Crosby had been ruled out for the Avalanche game after similar reports surfaced on Twitter.

If this scene seems of the head-shaking variety, well, that is exactly what Neal did — shake his head — as a gathering of reporters, including a crew from Canada's TSN, huddled around Crosby's dressing-room stall after practice.

Neal's stall is positioned directly to the right of Crosby's in the home room at Consol Energy Center.

Bylsma again was adamant yesterday the Penguins are not trying to keep a "secret" regarding Crosby's status. He first said something similar last Thursday when announcing Crosby would not play in weekend games against Dallas and at Carolina.

Last week began with Crosby not dismissing the "possibility" he could play this past Friday at home against Dallas. That was the first time he had not ruled out playing on a specific date since he was diagnosed with a concussion Jan. 6.

There is no indication the hype surrounding the anticipated return of the NHL's top draw has affected the Penguins (10-4-3, 23 points; plus-11 goal differential) on the ice, but over the past week Crosby's teammates have appeared to grow bemused by the increased attention this subject has drawn.

Center Jordan Staal admitted last Thursday that nobody really knows what is going on with Crosby.

"He's pretty much kept everyone in the dark just like he's kept you guys in the dark," Staal said, referring to the media.

The most likely scenario is that Crosby remains unsure of his return date. He was cleared for contact practices by team physician Dr. Charles Burke on Oct. 13, and he has looked increasingly sharper in on-ice sessions since, including the one yesterday.

His last known meeting with his medical team was Nov. 5 or 6, though it is not clear if he met with Burke; Burke and/or Michael Collins, a clinical psychologist who has extensive neuropsychology training and heads the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program; or Ted Carrick, a Canadian-born chiropractor based in Georgia and a self-described neurological specialist.

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