PITTSBURGH, Pa. – No change in Sidney Crosby’s status. No words from him, either—once again, he declined Monday to talk to reporters.
And no chance of Crosby playing against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said nothing has changed and that means Crosby still hasn’t been cleared to play as he mends from the concussion that has sidelined him for more than 10 months. Now that he’s been ruled out for Tuesday, the earliest he could return is Thursday at Tampa Bay.
“We’ll let you know if he’s going to play, and there’s no change in his status,” Bylsma said.
Crosby, through a team spokesman, said last week he wouldn’t discuss his playing status until there was a change. He hasn’t talked publicly since Nov. 7, when he declined to rule himself out for any of the Penguins’ remaining games.
Crosby hasn’t played since he was driven into the boards by Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman on Jan. 5, his second hard hit in as many games.
Pittsburgh, by NHL rules, has until 5 p.m. ET on any game day to take Crosby off injured reserve and play him, but a team official told The Canadian Press that the intention is to provide a day’s notice when Crosby plans to play.
“It’s not going to be a secret,” Bylsma said.
Bylsma initially said at his post-practice news conference Monday that he had yet to rule Crosby out for Tuesday, but that was only because he has yet to talk to Crosby. Several hours later, the team confirmed Crosby would not play.
There was one new development Monday. Crosby had new linemates during practice, replacing the injured Steve Sullivan on the top line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Sullivan sustained an undisclosed lower body injury during a 5-3 loss at Carolina on Saturday and his status is listed as day to day.
However, Crosby has played with various linemates since training camp began Sept. 17 and again after he was cleared for contact in practice on Oct. 13. Bylsma suggested the line pairings for when Crosby returns remain undecided.
During practice, Crosby skated with authority, shot the puck accurately and displayed the speed, stickhandling ability and shiftiness that helped make him the NHL’s leading scorer at this time a year ago.
“He’s on his way,” Neal said. “He’ll be back soon, and he’ll be 100 per cent. When he feels ready, he’ll be there.”
Neal, tied for second in the league with 11 goals going into Monday’s games, was acquired by Pittsburgh from Dallas in February with the intention of playing him alongside either Crosby or Malkin. So he obviously enjoyed being on a line with both, even if it only was in practice.
“Lucky, I know,” Neal said. “It was fun playing with those two. It’s awesome. I don’t know what the lines are going to be. Me and Geno are playing good together with Sullivan, but who knows what’s going to happen? Anyone can adapt with him (Crosby), I’m sure.”
Or when it will happen.
Since training camp started, the Penguins have repeatedly said that Crosby won’t be rushed and that he would return only when the team captain and his doctors decide he is ready. There’s still no clear signal when that will be—this week, next week, next month or next year.
The Penguins finish this week with a Florida road trip that concludes Saturday against the Florida Panthers.
Next week, they’re at home for three consecutive games Nov. 21 (Islanders), 23 (Blues) and 25 (Senators) before playing Nov. 26 at Montreal.
Apparently, there’s nothing left for Crosby to prove on the ice that he’s ready to play.
“In terms of on-ice stuff, there isn’t something we are looking for,” Bylsma said. “The doctors will be looking to get him to the next level, which would be playing. I’m not educated on (the subject) or know what that is.”
If Crosby had a doctor’s appointment Monday—or a week since his last known visit—the Penguins did not say. Crosby has been visiting his concussion specialists on a weekly basis.