Sidney Crosby's long road to recovery appears to have gotten longer.
The Pittsburgh Penguins star revealed today that he suffered a setback last week while training to get back in the lineup during the playoffs, again experiencing concussion symptoms and having to discontinue training.
"I had to take a step back," Crosby said. "Up to that point, the progression had gone pretty well, but at the same time, still wasn't ready."
Crosby acknowledged he began experiencing headaches and "all the stuff that comes with" his symptoms.
"It's more frustrating," he said. "My expectation probably wasn't that I'd play [during the playoffs] but I was just trying to make sure that if there was any chance that it was possible to come back that I was ready and that I'd done everything I could to be ready. It's frustrating, disappointing. But can't really control any of that.
"All I can control is what I was doing off the ice in trying to rehab and all that stuff. Unfortunately it didn't work out."
The Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs in Game 7 of Round 1 by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, meaning Crosby - who hasn't played since early January - won't need to be in the lineup for a meaningful game for another five months.
He said that, after this latest setback, he will be careful not to push the limits in terms of how soon he returns to training.
"I just want to make sure, having gone through that... you don't want to go through that again," he said. "You don't want to be pushing working out, or trying to get back to it too quick. That won't happen. But I just want to make sure that when I do start to work out again I don't have to deal with symptoms. I'd rather wait that extra bit of time."
Crosby was in the midst of what looked to be a Hart Trophy worth season and a career year with 32 goals and 66 points in only 41 games. Now he hasn't played in an NHL game in four months, and there are long-term concerns over how this will affect his career.
Even so, he remains optimistic he will be able to begin next season normally.
"It's been really slow obviously, but I'm not worried about that," Crosby said. "I feel like from where I was a couple months ago, things are a lot better. Just being able to skate and stuff was encouraging. Hopefully the next step doesn't have any hurdles."
Other quotes from Crosby today (full audio here):
- He was asked if he felt he played with a concussion (after being hit at the Winter Classic) and suffered another one (on a hit by Victor Hedman a few days later): "You know what, it's possible. But it's not the easiest thing to diagnose, and I don't think if you ask any guy who's been through it before, it's not something you know right away. So that very easily could be the case. But it wasn't because of lack of care or anyone not being as diligent as possible. It's just the way the circumstances were."
- When did the symptoms come back? "I think exertion wise, I think I was almost going (full speed). Pretty close. When you do that I think you get a good idea where you're at. And obviously I wasn't quite there yet ... In my mind that was kind of a small victory, just to be able to get on the ice a bit and at least feel like an athlete again."
Penguins GM Ray Shero ( audio)
"The great thing now with Sid is he's got time on his hands. He has made significant progress. This is an injury as we've all said from Day 1 with this, he's not going to come back until he's 100 per cent. He had made lots of progress but he wasn't there.
"Dr. Collins expects a full recovery. It's just a matter of time as we know with these injuries. So that's the good news. I'm not concerned about it with the season ending. It's disappointing, but from Sid's standpoint, the pressure of the questions 'is he going to come back, when will he come back,' goes away and now he can get back to healing, feeling good about himself and taking his time."