Sidney Crosby wouldn't miss a trip to Western Canada, even if he almost certainly won't play.
Crosby expects to accompany the Pittsburgh Penguins on their season-opening three-game road swing next week, despite not being far enough along in his concussion rehabilitation to play. Crosby, who last played Jan. 5, still hasn't been cleared for contact during practice — a necessary step before he can resume his career.
Because Crosby would miss two practices and three game-day skates if he doesn't make the trip, he is expected to travel unless his doctors decide they want him to continue his rehabilitation in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins leave Tuesday to play in Vancouver on Oct. 6, Calgary on Oct. 8 and Edmonton on Oct. 9.
“We'll be starting with everybody going on the trip that's part of our group that's with us at that time,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday. “Unless their rehab needs to be at a facility that's not part of the trip, they'll be going on the trip with us. So I anticipate that to be the case for Sid.”
While Crosby still hasn't received the go-ahead to absorb hits in practice, he isn't discouraged by his recovery time — and is encouraged by his progress since training camp began Sept. 17.
After being forced to halt some conditioning drills when his post-concussion symptoms recurred during the summer, he has been symptom-free throughout camp. He has gone at full speed during all drills, and at a 100 per cent exertion rate.
Because he has no setbacks during camp, he isn't disappointed that he still hasn't fully regained his endurance, timing and on-ice vision, even while taking part in all drills that don't include contact.
“Everything seems to be coming slowly, but I think that each day all of that gets better and better,” Crosby said. “It's tough. I'm kind of going based on December of last year and how I felt. I'm not going to get to that level this week.
“It's just a matter of being realistic with how much you want to improve every day, but also paying attention to everything that's important — so that transition is as smooth as possible,” he said.
The 24-year-old Crosby, widely regarded as the NHL's signature star, was playing the best hockey of his career before hard hits in games against Washington on Jan. 1 and Tampa Bay on Jan. 5 ended his 2010-11 season. He had just ended a career-high 25-game scoring streak, and he was the NHL's runaway leader in goals (32) and points (66) in 41 games.
Until he is cleared to start throwing and accepting hits in practice, Crosby is concentrating on regaining his various on-ice skills and building up his endurance.
“It's more just staying in shape and timing and stuff like that,” he said. “The more I can do, the better.”
The Penguins aren't dropping any hints when the next step in Crosby's recovery will be. During Thursday's practice at Consol Energy Center, he centered a line that also included Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis.
“I don't know a timetable after which he would begin contact,” Bylsma said. “I don't know that at all, so I haven't made that anticipation and I don't have any idea when that might be.”
Crosby has been productive against all three Canadian teams he'll likely miss opposing next week. During his six-season career, he has two goals in five games against Vancouver, five goals and an assist in five games against Calgary and four assists in four games against Edmonton.