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Pens' Crosby back in practice, but return to game action unknown

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby returned to practice with the
Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, almost three weeks after spraining
his ankle in a crash into the boards.

Crosby skated four times on his own this week, but Friday's
practice was his first work with his teammates since sustaining the
injury Jan. 18 against Tampa Bay. Wearing a yellow jersey to show
that he was barred from contact, Crosby worked on his shooting and
skating and attempted to make sharp turns and quick starts.

Last season's scoring champ was expected to be out six to eight
weeks and the Penguins, 4-2-2 since Crosby was hurt, have not
revised that timetable. Crosby also doesn't have a firm target date
for returning.

"If you want a prediction, it's not going to happen," Crosby
said. "It's the most frustrating thing to really go through,
because two days you can feel pretty good and one day you can wake
up and it's sore. Your body needs to heal and that's the way I have
to approach it."

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been out since Dec. 6, or
more than two months, with the same type of high ankle sprain and
is not yet ready to play.

Crosby said he is hoping that by working on his conditioning
while his ankle heals, he can play immediately after he is cleared
by doctors.

"I'm probably going to reevaluate it in about a week or two
weeks and see where I am," he said. "It's going to take a while.
I'm not ready to play ... Wishful thinking would be a couple of
more weeks, but I really don't know."

Merely being on the ice again isn't an indication that he might
be able to return sooner than initially expected, Crosby said.

"Some guys skate like this early on, some guys don't," he
said. "Just because I'm skating earlier doesn't mean I'm going to
be able to play earlier. The whole reason for this is to make sure
I'm not wasting any time, as far as conditioning and things like
that go."

Coach Michel Therrien said the team didn't expect Crosby to be
skating this soon, but he also cautioned that "skating and
battling are not the same thing."

The injury has taken away some of Crosby's strength and
conditioning, and he needs time to get back into playing shape.

"I'm not as powerful when I'm turning, things like that. I'm
favoring it," Crosby said. "Everything I'm usually able to do, I
can't do it at full potential, especially when it comes to guys
leaning on me. I'm not really there."