NHL

Crosby feels good after practice with teammates

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skated with the team on Wednesday, but still doesn't know when he will be able to play in a game.

The star center has been sidelined since Jan. 5 because of post-concussion symptoms.

Crosby hasn't been cleared for contact in practice and will miss at least the first few games of the regular season, which opens on Thursday when the Penguins face the Vancouver Canucks.

''It's a day at a time,'' Crosby said with a smile, sweat dripping off his face. ''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. He remembered that quite clearly Wednesday.

''It's full of great memories,'' Crosby said. ''It's pretty easy for that to creep back into your head.''

Crosby isn't expected to play in Pittsburgh's three-game trip to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. He is 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. The hope is that he is close to being back to full health.

''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,'' he said. ''I'm just basically updating them every day and that's where it stands.''

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said it's good to have Crosby traveling 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 is free of post-concussion symptoms. Gone are the headaches, the dizziness and the 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 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.''

Tagged: Sidney Crosby, Penguins

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