Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby hopes to skate again as early as Friday after being assured by his doctors that he does not have another concussion.
Crosby plans to work out that day in Pittsburgh — he did not accompany the Penguins on their current two-game road trip — with the anticipation of rejoining the team on Monday.
The Penguins, admittedly being cautious with the NHL's marquee player, decided that Crosby should not play Thursday in Philadelphia or Saturday against the New York Islanders once he experienced a post-practice headache Wednesday.
Crosby passed a concussion test that afternoon and is not believed to have had a significant setback only two weeks since returning from a 10-month concussion layoff, but neither the Penguins nor their captain were taking any chances.
"I just want to be smart with this," Crosby told the Penguins' website. "It's been a long road back and we want to err on the side of caution."
Headaches were one of the major symptoms — along with dizziness and a sensitivity to bright light and loud noises — that Crosby experienced while being sidelined from Jan. 6 until Nov. 21.
"After practice, he had a slight headache," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters in Philadelphia. "He knows his body well. It's been a long 10 months. And as a precautionary (move), he is kind of taking (the Flyers') game off and through the weekend."
The Penguins aren't scheduled to practice on Sunday, but will hold an off-day practice Monday before their home game against Detroit on Tuesday — when Crosby likely will return, barring any additional setbacks.
Crosby did not feel well after being hit hard several times during the Penguins' 3-1 loss at home Monday to the Boston Bruins. He was given Tuesday off but went through a full practice Wednesday.
Shortly after practice ended, Crosby developed a headache, prompting him to be given a concussion test by Michael (Micky) Collins, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion specialist who has been overseeing Crosby's recovery. According to Bylsma, Crosby tested the same as he did before he first experienced a concussion in January.
"Dr. Collins said there is no indication of a concussion at this point in time," Bylsma said.
However, concussions do not always show up immediately in testing. Penguins defencemen Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek initially passed concussion tests following a Nov. 26 game in Montreal, but subsequently developed them. Both are currently sidelined.
Bylsma said no single hit in the Bruins' game can be pinpointed as the cause of Crosby's discomfort.
Crosby doubled over in pain following a knee-to-knee hit with teammate Chris Kunitz during the third period, but he also absorbed a hit from the Bruins' David Krejci in front of the bench and another from Rich Peverley in front of the Bruins' net.
"I've taken some good hits over the past few weeks and I'm happy with the way my body responded," Crosby told the team website. "After discussing things with doctors, it was better to make sure I was cautious before returning to play."
At this time a year ago, Crosby was in the midst of a 25-game scoring streak — the NHL's longest since the early 1990s — and held a commanding lead in the scoring race.
But Crosby did not play again that season after being jarred by hits in successive games, by the Capitals' David Steckel in the NHL Winter Classic outdoor game on Jan. 1 and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman four days later. Crosby played against Tampa Bay on Jan. 5 because he did not show any signs of a concussion immediately after the Steckel hit.
He missed the second half of last season, the playoffs and the first 20 games this season, but Crosby returned with a dazzling four-point game against the Islanders on Nov. 21, getting two goals and two assists. He has not scored a goal since then, although he has eight assists in his last seven games.
Over the last two seasons, the 24-year-old Crosby has 34 goals and 44 assists for 78 points in 49 games.