VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The last time Sidney Crosby was in Rogers Arena, he was sending a hockey-mad nation into fits of delirium with his golden goal at the 2010 Olympics.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that Sunday afternoon when Crosby's goal beat the United States with an overtime winner from the far boards.
"It's full of great memories, and being the first time back [here], it's pretty easy to kind of go through that in your head," Crosby acknowledged Wednesday after he and his Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed their last practice before the start of the 2011-12 regular season Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
Crosby won't be joining his teammates on the ice as he continues to work through post-concussion issues. He has worked hard during training camp and has been symptom-free for the better part of a month, but he's still not ready for contact and his return to action remains unknown.
"I've been feeling good the last few weeks here. Kind of ramped it up. Haven't had any issues," Crosby said.
If there is any melancholy about missing his first season-opener since coming into the league in 2005, Crosby does not betray it. In fact, his rehabilitation from a concussion sustained in early January has included a healthy dose of perspective.
Yes, he is disappointed he is not playing Thursday, he said, "but when you've gone through something for this long, it's just, I think you appreciate the little victories and having the opportunity to just go out and go as hard as you can and feel good. You go through each day and hope you feel better and it's been really good so far."
"I'm not happy about missing the first game, but I'm happy with the improvement, happy to be going hard. It's a day at a time," he added. "I know it's a cliché. 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, try and go as hard as you can, and hope you feel good, and for me, the last few weeks have been great. No complaints."
When he does return to action, Crosby said he won't be worried about getting hit again.
"Can't control them. 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 take 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 that there's still something wrong. I've been happy with the way things have gone."
The game's highest-profile player also threw his support behind the work of the league's new master of discipline, Brendan Shanahan, who has been busy this preseason handing out suspensions, mostly to players who have targeted opponents' heads.
"I think he's done a great job. It's not easy, but 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 explains it, as well.
"If anything, people are learning, and hopefully with time, they'll [the number of head shots] go down. I don't think anybody is out there expecting that 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 thing we're doing."