VANCOUVER – It didn’t match the thrill of his golden moment, but simply practising at Rogers Arena with his teammates was another small victory in Sidney Crosby’s long road back to the NHL.
The Penguins captain, who hasn’t played a game since suffering a concussion Jan. 5, skated with his Pittsburgh teammates Wednesday.
The former league MVP won’t be in the lineup Thursday when the Penguins open the season against the Vancouver Canucks and he still doesn’t know when he will be cleared for game action.
“It’s a day at a time,” Crosby said with a smile, sweat dripping off his face after another practice that didn’t include contact drills. “I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated just being able to do this every day as much as lately because for a long time I wasn’t able to.
“You just get up every day and try and go as hard as you can and hope you feel good. For me the last few weeks have been great. No complaints.”
The last time Crosby played a hockey game in Vancouver, he scored the overtime goal in Canada’s gold-medal victory against the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The happy memories wrapped themselves around Crosby like a blanket when he stepped on the Rogers Arena ice Wednesday.
“It’s full of great memories,” said the 24-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S. “It’s pretty easy for that to creep back into your head.”
Crosby isn’t expected to play in Pittsburgh’s three-game swing through Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. He’s disappointed about missing the season-opener but believes he’s on the road to recovery.
“When you’ve gone through something for this long … you appreciate the little victories and having the opportunity to just go out and go as hard as you can and feel good,” he said.
“You go into each day and hope you feel better. It’s been really good so far.”
Crosby skated the whole practice, was fast on his feet and handled the puck well.
He shrugged when asked if he sees a light at the end of the dark tunnel he’s been travelling through.
“It’s a day at a time,” Crosby said. “I know it’s a cliche.
“I think they’re just going to try and keep an eye on me here as far as communicating with the doctors. I’ll just continue to do that. I’m just basically updating them every day and that’s where it stands.”
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said it’s good to have Crosby travelling with the team.
“He’s our leader,” Fleury said. “I’m hoping he comes back soon. He loves hockey so much.
“He looks pretty good. He’s himself. He’s got good hands and a good shot.”
Crosby said he feels free of any post-concussion symptoms. Gone are the headaches, dizziness and inability to concentrate that bothered him for months.
He knows one of the true tests will come the first time he takes a hard hit.
“You’re going to get hit again,” he said. “I think if anything you try to prepare yourself mentally.
“If you know you’re healthy, and you know you took the necessary steps to get ready, you’re not going to fear that nearly as much as if you rush into things and you know there’s still something wrong. I have been happy with the way things have gone.”
Crosby applauded the steep suspensions NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan has handed out during the exhibition season.
“I think the best thing he’s probably done is treat each individual case differently,” Crosby said. “He’s really going over each part and making sure he plans it as well.”
Still, Crosby doubts if hits to the head will ever totally be eliminated from the game.
“People are learning and hopefully with time they’ll go down,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody is out there expecting head shots are going to be totally gone. They’re going to happen (but) they’re going to be a lot less if we keep doing the same things we’re doing.”