This Jan. 5, 2011, file photo shows Pittsburgh Penguins\' Sidney Crosby warming up before an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, in Pittsburgh. Crosby returned to the ice on Monday, March 14, 2011, for the first time since missing 29 games with a concussion. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Penguins centre Sidney Crosby returned to the ice on Monday for the first time since missing 29 games with a concussion. But if you're looking for the Pittsburgh captain's return date, it's still anyone's guess.
"I have no clue," Crosby said. "I'm not thinking too far ahead as far as a time frame. I just want to get better. This is part of the way to do that. I'm just kind of taking that step and seeing how it goes."
Crosby, who last played on Jan. 5 in an 8-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, practised in full gear for about 15 minutes at the Consol Energy Center. It was a light workout. He participated in a skating drill around some cones, and took a few shots on net, as well.
"I've had some good days here the last few, and I was able to get on a bike and exercise a bit. I didn't have any symptoms doing that," Crosby said. "I was given the opportunity to skate, the doctors said I could give it a try and see how I feel. So I did that today, and we'll see moving forward how it goes."
The Penguins, without Crosby and injured forward Evgeni Malkin (knee), have stayed afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They have 88 points, and are just three behind first-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh plays at Ottawa on Tuesday.
All the while, Crosby will wait.
"Yeah, it's frustrating, but at the same time when you go through all those things, I think the most important thing is that you just feel normal and you're able to do things and work out—just do things that every day you're usually able to do as a hockey player," Crosby said.
"I realize that it's a process, but it's a step in the right direction. It doesn't mean that today I won't have symptoms, and I'll have to kind of step back a bit. That could happen too, so I think I'm pretty realistic about everything."
Crosby also weighed in on the annual general managers meeting, which was underway in Florida. The GMs, under pressure to address head shots in the league, announced a new protocol Monday ensuring every player showing symptoms of a concussion must go to the dressing room and be examined by a doctor.
Crosby said he sided with calls to ban head shots from the game.
"I’d like to say yes. But it's more than just saying that. There's obviously got to be some clarity," said Crosby.
"Everything's got to be looked at. It's a pretty fast game. There may be times when guys maybe don't (aim) for the head but come into contact with the head. What do you do in that situation?
"As far as deliberate head shots, you don't lose anything from the game if you take that away. You don't lose anything at all. If a guy has enough time to line someone up, then he's got enough time to decide if he's going to hit the head or not."
Crosby's return to the ice comes a week after a surprising radio report out of Toronto, in which FAN 590 host Bob McCown floated the idea that some family members were trying to convince him to retire. The notion was quickly debunked.
"This report is baseless," Pat Brisson, Crosby's agent, told Rogers Sportsnet. "At no time has retirement ever been discussed."
Crosby's father, Troy, also responded to the claims.
"We're just trying to get him healthy again," he told ESPN. "How ever long that takes, that's how long it's going to take."
Crosby was even asked, post-practice on Monday, if he ever considered retirement through this process. His reply was a quick "no."
Crosby's injury problems began on Jan. 1, in the NHL's Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field. He was hit by former Capitals forward David Steckel in Washington's 3-1 win. Crosby played in the Penguins' next game, versus the Lightning, when he was hit by Victor Hedman. He later admitted to experiencing post-concussion symptoms.
"Yeah, it's scary for sure," Crosby said. "But thinking about it or dwelling on it isn't really going to change anything. You've got to make sure, like I said, listen to yourself and what's going on. Provide doctors and things like that the most information you can about how you feel. And trust them in what they're telling you is going to happen, and that's been the case.
"So everything has gone well that way and it's a matter of time and I'm waiting for everything to feel better. That's what you deal with with injuries and when it's your head, even more so. But it's been kind of a learning process that way."
Since the injuries to Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins added to their offence around the trading deadline. They acquired James Neal from the Dallas Stars and Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins have won two of the last three, and have points in four of five games this month.
"I've been here every day, and I've been around the guys. It's been pretty amazing to see the amount of character we have," Crosby said. "I think with all the adversity we've had, the guys have really done an unbelievable job of just focusing on what they have to do out there.
"They've been resilient, and that's something that says a lot about our team."