Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby was cleared Wednesday by doctors to practice with his teammates, but will still not be involved in any contact drills as he continues to recover from a concussion.
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The Penguins will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the Panthers on Saturday, but the former NHL MVP is not expected to play in those games, although he will be with the team.
"Everyone is jumping to conclusions, but it is good news," Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, downplaying the notion that Crosby’s return is imminent.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero was even more cautious Wednesday, saying Crosby is still "two or three weeks" away from playing in a game, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"I don’t want to take away any hope from (Crosby), but to return to game action for the Stanley Cup playoffs takes a certain level of fitness and game-(readiness), and he is certainly not close to that at this point," Shero said.
The Penguins have five games remaining before the regular season ends April 10.
Crosby has not played since Jan. 5 due to a concussion, but has been working out on his own, and has been skating since March 14. He has been increasing his workouts to the point where he was able to stay on the ice for 45 minutes Sunday.
The 23-year-old, who guided the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009, was leading the league in scoring at the time of his concussion, with 32 goals and 66 points.
Despite losing Crosby, and enduring a season-ending knee injury to All-Star forward Evgeni Malkin, the Pens have managed to stay just four points behind the East-leading Flyers. The Pens dropped an opportunity to move into a tie with Philadelphia, losing at home to the Flyers 5-2 Tuesday night.