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Sidney Crosby practices with Pittsburgh, questionable for Wednesday's game

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby practised with the team Monday after staying off the ice for five days to rest his ailing left knee, but his status for Wednesday's game against the New York Rangers is questionable.

"Five days (off the ice) is pretty long, and I was a little rusty," Crosby said. "(I pushed it) as hard as I could, (because) if you can't go hard in practice, you probably can't go hard in the game."

Although coach Michel Therrien said Crosby looked sharp during the 90-minute workout, Crosby said that if the game had been Monday, he would not have played. Crosby added that he would see how the knee responded after a practice Tuesday before deciding whether to play Wednesday.

Monday was the Penguins' first practice since they played last Tuesday. Although Crosby travelled to Montreal for all-star festivities over the weekend, he declined to take the ice in order to rest the knee he originally injured late in a Jan. 14 loss to the Washington Capitals.

Crosby, who ranks second to teammate Evgeni Malkin in scoring in the league, missed the ensuing game two days later against Anaheim but returned for a win over the Rangers on Jan. 18 and a loss to Carolina on Jan. 20.

After that game, he decided that the knee wasn't healing properly and it would be prudent to stay off it through the all-star break.

"It was just getting a little worse instead of getting a little better," said Crosby, who has missed 34 games over four seasons but only one this season due to injury. "It felt better in the first game than the second, so that meant we needed to try to get myself the best opportunity to heal."

The NHL has been cracking down on players who miss the all-star weekend without cause, forcing the Detroit Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk to sit out the defending Stanley Cup champions' first game back after the break on Tuesday after they declined their all-star invitations.

Crosby fulfilled media obligations and was introduced to the crowd in Montreal.

"I think that was a smart decision from him not to participate," Therrien said of all-star on-ice activities. "It was good for him to be (in Montreal), but he needed those few days to rest that knee."

Crosby's health is crucial to the Penguins, the reigning Eastern Conference champions who have been struggling the past six weeks. The team spent the all-star break out of the playoff picture in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins need to approach the second half "with a lot of desperation," Therrien said. "The position we're in, the focus has got to be there."

Forwards Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis are set to return from injury for Wednesday's game. Defenceman Sergei Gonchar, who hasn't played this season after shoulder surgery in September, is practising but still not projected to return for at least a month.

Defencemen Brooks Orpik (undisclosed) and Rob Scuderi (illness) also did not practice, but Scuderi might play Wednesday. Therrien classified Orpik as "day-to-day."

Malkin was given the day off after returning from Montreal.


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